TW: The following article contains information that might be sensitive for some readers.
Other than the fact that society doesn’t leave women with the basic right to be, the patriarchy and misogyny is deep-rooted within our system. There are still policies that exist, that’d make you want to question the so-called changing times. And sadly, mostly, acting on such policies isn’t the easiest thing – with the time that things take in our country and the backlash most landmark judgments receive.
On 31st October, Monday, the Supreme Court reiterated the ban on the “two-finger test” in rape cases. Despite the fact that it was an important judgment, it’s also disappointing that it managed to exist in 2022. The two-finger test is based on a patriarchal mindset that assumes that sexually active women cannot be raped. It includes the inspection of the hymen and the laxity of the muscles to determine if a woman has been sexually active.
Post the judgment, those performing this test will be held guilty of misconduct. But to think that qualified doctors performed such tests, specifically when it’s not even scientifically accepted, just brings a sense of fear of the conditions that women are exposed to. Given that the tearing of the hymen is not a reliable source of vaginal penetration and that in cases of sexual assault against children, the hymen often stays intact during penetration, the so-called medical test doesn’t even have a backing.
But the thing is, all these logical and scientific explanations aren’t the only reason why these tests should’ve stopped a long time back. They also re-victimize the women who’ve had to deal with the trauma of sexual assault – which honestly cannot be measured or known. And THIS alone is a good enough reason for this test to be banned. Also, how can we support such measures at all, that lack the basic right to privacy? And how ironic, that THIS “test” is a part of the broader process of justice for the victims of rape and sexual assault.
After the Verma committee recommendations in 2013, the two-finger test was banned on rape victims. Later, in 2018, the United Nations Human Rights, UN Women, and the World Health Organization (WHO) called for a ban on the two-finger test in order to eliminate violence against women and declared it medically unnecessary. Despite these measures, the test continues to be conducted in India and other countries, even when there are rape test kits being provided at medical institutions. This is just another example of how the right to privacy and the basic concern for mental and physical integrity is dismissed when it comes to women in our society.
It’s extremely sexist to think, let alone practice that a woman who’s sexually active cannot be believed when she states that she’s been a victim of assault. Not to mention, that the test, used to “determine whether a woman is habituated to sexual intercourse” was definitely not going to help any woman, after how our society treats women who are sexually active. Imagine the judgment that a victim will be exposed to, for having sex, in a society that already blames the victim (mostly in the case of women). Because well, going out, dressing up a certain way, and clearly, wanting the ability to choose is the apparent “reasons” for sexual assault in our country. Imagine how hard it’d be to speak up, after having to go through something like this, knowing that people will question you first and not the culprit.
When a ban like this has to “reiterated”, there’s certainly something very wrong with the society that we live in. Not that the two-finger test should’ve existed in the first place, but having to warn people not to do it, after already deeming it illegal, that’s clearly messed up. After the several cases of assault that have left us with a sense of terror, there’s one thing that’s clear – justice is usually delayed. And then having to go through such tests, as a victim who’s not even sure if she’d be offered justice, is traumatic.
So, the issue is, that such practices still exist in 2022. And when it comes to putting a stop to them with proper legal methods, our society somehow manages to stoop to new lows. We need legal measures, we need a judiciary that is all ears, but we also need a community that doesn’t seek constant control over women, their choices, their bodies, and well, their entire lives. It’s already difficult having to think twice about things in a man’s world that serves privileges to some people on a platter. We don’t need more practices that leave us wanting to question raising our voices, when it comes to sexual assault and the basic lack of consent.