Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has drawn new guidelines for treating rape victims and asked all hospitals to set up a designated room for forensic and medical examination of victims also prohibiting the two-finger test performed on them, labeling it as unscientific.
The Department of Health Research (DHR) along with Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) with the help of experts formulated this set of national guidelines for dealing with criminal sexual assault cases, which will hopefully put an end to the "horrendous" medical process, which the victims are subjected to after the sexual abuse.
These guidelines have been made available to healthcare providers who work with victims of sexual violence.
In November 2011 an experts' group on Gender and Health was formed by Dr V M Katoch, Secretary to GOI-DHR and ICMR Director General under the chairmanship of Dr M E Khan (Secretary, Sexual Violence Research Initiative) to formulate these guidelines which can be used at Primary Health Centres and district hospitals whenever a rape victim approaches them.
Later, responsibility to draft these guidelines was given to Mr. Indrajit Khandekar, in-charge Clinical Forensic Medicine Unit (CFMU) & Associate professor at Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (MGIMS) Sevagram-Wardha .
After seeking public opinion the guidelines were released for circulation on December 16, 2013.
Dr. Khandekar, who pursued the matter single handedly, as per the reports, told that he had successfully impressed upon the state government on how to handle such cases and now at national level too, the Centre has come out with fresh guidelines. "It has been observed that the rape victims are usually put under a horribly judgmental microscope from the moment they call up the cops. They are often subjected to judgmentally attitudes by both the doctors and other medical staff in the hospital. The new guidelines include that every hospital must have a designated room to deal with Medico Legal Cases (MLC) of sexual assault to provide privacy to the victim and must have essential equipments listed in the guidelines," he said.
There must be provisions to provide alternative clothing for the victims and smooth collection of MLC evidence keeping in mind the sensitivity of the circumstance and also, there must be training sessions for sensitising doctors and other medical staff for the protocols and guidelines for MLC examination/reporting of such cases, it has been outlined.
As per the guidelines;
While carrying out medical tests no third person must be present in the room other than the doctor. If the doctor is male, a female attendant must be there.
Doctors are asked not to use word rape in their opinion, as it is a legal definition and not a medical diagnosis.
For the first time, names of samples, its preservative and purpose of analysis for forensic lab has to be printed itself on the form before sending it to FSL.
DNA analysis has also been done. A separate form for medical management as a check list has been provided too.
The new set of rules also provide comprehensive care which must address issues such as physical injuries, STDs, HIV, Hepatitis B, etc
Psychological effects must be recognised and the patient shall be provided counselling, social support and appropriate referrals, it said.
The doctors should examine cases without an FIR even before receiving police requisition if the survivor report to the hospital first as it is not mandatory for a rape survivor seeking medical examination and care.
Final Opinion must be evidence based as per physical findings of first examination, follow up examination and results of Forensic Science Laboratory examination. History or information supplied by police or others should not influence opinion of examiner.
The maligned two-finger test that was used by doctors to opine whether the girl is habituated to sexual intercourse or not, has been outlawed and it is no way scientific and shall not be performed.
It is mandatory for the forensic medical report to state precisely the reasons for each conclusion.
Along with this guideline the DHR has also drafted a new manual to address the psycho-social impact of sexual violence including counselling that the victims should receive to alleviate her woes. Read here.
Read Guidelines on Forensic Medical Care for Survivors of Sexual Assault.