Sexual assault survivors’ virginity test will be abolished

Updated 12 Sep 2020

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The reply was submitted on Friday during hearing of two public interest petitions challenging the TFT for being disrespectful, inhuman and violative to fundamental rights of women.— Wikimedia Commons/File
The reply was submitted on Friday during hearing of two public interest petitions challenging the TFT for being disrespectful, inhuman and violative to fundamental rights of women.— Wikimedia Commons/File

LAHORE: The provincial health authorities have told the Lahore High Court that the two-finger test (TFT), an old practice of examining sexual assault survivors, has limited evidentiary value and will be abolished from the protocol of medico-legal certificate (MLC) unless necessitated.

“It is not objective of the medical examination of female victim of sexual assault to comment about character of the examinee neither TFT is being practiced with that objective nor it has any strong evidentiary value related to determination of virginity,” says a joint reply by the Punjab Specialised Healthcare and Medical Education Department, the Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department and surgeon medico-legal Lahore.

Health authorities tell court

The reply was submitted on Friday during hearing of two public interest petitions challenging the TFT for being disrespectful, inhuman and violative to fundamental rights of women.

One petition was filed by PML-N MNA Shaista Pervez Malik while women rights activists, academics, journalists and advocates were petitioners in the other. They include Sadaf Aziz, Farida Shaheed, Farieha Aziz, Farah Zia, Sarah Zaman, Maliha Zia Lari, Dr Aisha Babar and Zainab Husain.

Advocate Sahar Zareen Bandial and Barrister Sameer Khosa are the lead counsel for the petitioners.

The petitions mainly plead the intrusive and demeaning practice whereby medico-legal officers perform a hymen test and a “two-finger test” as part of medical evaluation of women victims is unreliable and unnecessary and has no scientific basis.

The test is usually used in Pakistan despite calls for its revocation by healthcare professionals and human rights organisations world over.

Responding to the points raised in the petitions, the government’s reply states that only authorised women medical officer (WMO) conduct the TFT and that too after obtaining expressed and written consent of the victim or her guardian. “In case of refusal by the victim, the medical examination is not conducted and the referring court is informed in writing,” it says.

Justice Ayesha A. Malik will resume hearing on the petitions on Nov 6 when the petitioners will appear with their rejoinders.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2020