Punjab notifies abolition of two-finger test

Published November 14, 2020
New guidelines issued to the medicolegal surgeons say the two-finger test must not be performed. — File image
New guidelines issued to the medicolegal surgeons say the two-finger test must not be performed. — File image

LAHORE: The Punjab government has notified abolition of an old practice called two-finger test (TFT) for examination of women rape survivors following a challenge made in two public-interest petitions heard by the Lahore High Court (LHC).

“The competent authority has been pleased to notify the revised guidelines and proforma for medico-legal examination of female survivors/victims of sexual assault for implementation in all public sector hospitals/institutions in Punjab with immediate effect,” states a notification issued by the Specialised Healthcare and Medical Education Department.

Additional Advocate General Jawad Yaqoob submitted the notification before the court along with the new guidelines set for the examination of the women victims of rape.

The guidelines issued to the medicolegal surgeons say the two-finger test must not be performed and the examination of a victim should be undertaken only on the judicial order as per Women Protection Act 2006 and with the written consent of the victim, if adult, and from the guardian, in case of a minor victim.

The examination is to be conducted by an authorised woman medical officer (WMO) or board as per Section 299 of Pakistan Penal Code. The survivor or in case of a minor, the guardian, can refuse either a medico-legal examination or collection of evidence or both and the refusal will not be used to deny treatment to the survivor after the sexual violence.

The set of the guidelines requires the surgeons to detail local examination in lithotomy position, including inspection, bilateral digital traction and spectrum examination.

“Inspection should be both with naked eye, magnifying lens and by use of Glaister Keen glass rod. Two finger test must not be performed,” maintains the department in its instructions.

Justice Ayesha A Malik has already reserved her verdict on the petitions after closing the hearing on Nov 10.

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

The petitions mainly pleaded the intrusive and demeaning practice whereby medicolegal officers perform a hymen test and the ‘two-finger test’ as part of medical evaluation of women victims was unreliable and unnecessary and had no scientific basis.

The petitions explained that the TFT usually involved inserting two fingers into vagina and was based on the flawed assumption that a woman ‘habituated to sexual intercourse’ was less likely to have been raped. The test is usually used in Pakistan despite calls for its revocation by the healthcare professionals and human rights organisations world over.

Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2020

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