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Contemporary Issue - Two-Finger Test: An Impertinent Approach

Were you raped..? Welcome to the two-finger test. - Anonymous

In the thicket of harrowing procedures and prejudices that a woman in India must traverse to
arrive at some semblance of recovery and justice after a sexual assault, is a medical examination
called the finger test. According to the Human Rights Watch Report, the test continues to be
carried out in India in spite of the Supreme Court ruling that such a test cannot be used against
women and that a rape survivors habituation to sexual intercourse is immaterial.
Two-finger test, commonly referred to as the Virginity Test, is being carried out as a routine in
many countries. The difference lies in the method of carrying out the same. In India, it is carried
out by inserting two fingers in the vaginal opening so as to observe the expression of the female,
that is, the laxity. This appears in the Indian Jurisprudence textbooks and is admissible as
evidence in Court in cases of rape. India has failed in taking rape offenses seriously, often
reproaching women for such offense. The Human Rights Watch said that it is lamentable that this
test is acceptable courtroom evidence. This strengthens the belief that the rape survivors are
loose women. A Report by Human Rights Watch highlights the use of this practice. The test is
unscientific, inhuman and degrading, the report notes. As long as the two-finger test remains,
it will provide the defense with a ready-made line of argument. And rape trials in India will be
dependent on the individual sensitivity of judges, prosecutors, and defense counsels. Why should
that be the case? It is an archaic procedure and needs to go.

The Report draws on interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch researchers in Mumbai and
Delhi with 44 people including doctors, health rights activities, womens rights activists, lawyers
and judges. Human Rights Watch also analyzed 160 judgments; of these 153 were from High
Courts across the country and 7 were Supreme Court judgments, all passed during the last five
years. The judgments were analyzed to determine how medical opinions based on the finger
test were used in rape trials beyond Mumbai and Delhi. A former public prosecutor quoted in
the report says, Where the defense takes the line that there was consent to sexual intercourse,
usually they also look to medical evidence for support. And if the medical report says anything

about the two-finger test, then they draw it out in courtsaying she was habituated so
consented and is falsely implicating the accused. Another prosecutor says, The finger test is
relevant for the defenseif the medical report says that two fingers have passed, the defense can
show that she is habituated. This shakes the testimony of the prosecutrix (the girl or woman).
This test is carried out in various ways. On the whole, this is the test where the females vagina is
examined. The Vagina is examined to see whether the Hymen is intact or not. A doctor performs
this test by inserting a finger into the females vagina to check the level of vaginal laxity, which
is used to determine if she is habituated to sexual intercourse. Now, this is one of the filthiest
tests one can perceive of. It is assumed that hymen can rupture only when a female undergoes
sexual intercourse. But there are many doctors, who are of the view that hymen is not a sound
and appropriate indicator of sexual virginity such as, a girl may have been born without a hymen
or the hymen might get torn during certain physical activities or the same may be stretched open
by the use of tampons . One can also call it a medical rape. It is a kind of punishment or say,
maltreatment with the female who is being subjected to this test. It is really wrong to assume that
the rupturing of hymen takes place as a result of sexual intercourse only. The other factors should
also be contemplated.
Alas! But this is how we are heading towards an era where we will call ourselves to be civilized
citizens of our country. The question arises as to who gives the permission to carry out such a test
and why do people need to conduct such lewd and obscene test. Does this violate our
fundamental rights? Truly, it does violate. It is a kind of vow that a girl has to give to validate her
This test is widely performed across India. The rape victims or the victims of sexual assault are
forced to undergo the two-finger test in order to authenticate that she was raped or assaulted.
Here, one incident can very well be cited: In Delhi, two days after being raped, an 18 year old
girl was asked to come to a public hospital. She lay with her legs spread on a white bed sheet
without her salwar. Two doctors came and after examining her pelvic region, they inserted two
gloved fingers into her vagina. She cried out in pain but nobody cared. The doctors wiped their
fingers on the glass slides and went. They didnt even take her permission before beginning the
test. She wasnt explained either regarding the same. This is nothing but medical rape. There is
no scientific basis to this test. The results change according to the size of fingers. There is also no

defined scale for measuring vaginal laxity. Old tears on hymen and vagina also do not prove that
a girl or women is habituated to sex .
The Supreme Court of India has condemned and deprecated the conducting of two- finger test as
a basis to ascertain a females virginity especially, the rape victims. It held that such a test
violates ones right to privacy and strongly shows disrespect towards women. It has directed the
centre to provide enhanced medical facilities to women which would respect her right to
consent while confirming sexual assault. Undoubtedly, the two-finger test and its
interpretations violate the right of rape survivors to privacy, physical and mental integrity and
dignity. Thus, this test, even if the report is affirmative, cannot ipso facto, be given rise to
presumption of consent.
Another instance of rape can be quoted here. A girl was raped in the capital of our country. After
she made a complaint, she was told to come to the hospital for some test. She wasnt told
anything about the same. When she reached the hospital, she was asked to remove her clothes
and the doctors carried out the two-finger test in the same manner. She was literally crying out in
pain. But she could not even complain regarding the same. She felt as if she was raped twice:
once in the dark, in the absence of any witness, and another with all the lights on, in the presence
of two witnesses. Not only this, while conducting the test, the doctors continue to ask offensive
and disgusting questions, passing comments on the answers given by the victims, which crushes
them to the core. By this stage, they feel as if they have a sore heart.
The reports of the medical examinations of the rape victims are read aloud in Court. So, one can
now guess that the reports of such a test is also read out loud in the Court where her most private
details of her private parts are described point to point so that everyone sitting in the Court is not
confused regarding any fact. But did anyone pay attention to one more thing? When such reports
are read out in the Courtroom in front of her, she winces in shame. At least, one thought should
be given to the point that she was already shattered when she was raped. And when she hears the
same aloud in the Courtroom, she feels as if she has been raped twice.
The Indian society is built in such a manner that even though it is replaced by many new
principles, some things never change. Despite the protests by the public, recommendations by

various committees and decisions by the Apex Court, two-finger test is still in practice. The
lawmakers and the law enforcement officials should take stringent steps to curb the same. Until
and unless they work in this regard, sexual assault cannot be overhauled and the principle of
justice will be miles away.

[1] As available at http://infochangeindia.org/women/books-a-reports/the-two-finger-test.html

visited on August 15, 2014.

[2] Dignity on Trial: Indias Need for Sound Standards for Conducting and Interpreting Forensic
Examination of Rape Survivors.
[3] Rebecca Mammen John, a criminal lawyer in New Delhi, in an interview to Human Rights
[4] As available at http://infochangeindia.org/women/books-a-reports/the-two-finger-test.html
visited on August 15, 2014.
[5] The female organ of sexual intercourse, the birth canal, as taken from http://www.biologyonline.org/dictionary/Vagina visited on September 17, 2013.
[6] A thin membrane of skin that may stretch across part of the vaginal opening, as taken from
http://www2.webster.edu/~woolflm/virginitytest.html visited on September 17, 2013.
[7] McNeil, Jr., Donald G. (13 September 2010). "Rape: Rights Group Calls Test to Determine
Sexual Activity a Second Assault in India", New York Times.
[8] A plug of soft material inserted into the vagina to absorb menstrual blood.
[9] Dr Indrajit Khandekar, a forensic expert and lawyer, Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical
Sciences, Sevagram, in Wardha, Maharashtra.
[10] B.S. Chauhan and F.M.I. Kalifulla, Bench of Justices, Supreme Court of India