Pak’s law ministry seeks discontinuation of two-finger test on rape victims

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The Pakistan government has disapproved of the two-finger test (TFT) performed on rape victims and recommended that it should not be part of any medico-legal examination report in sexual assault cases.

The Ministry of Law and Justice has intimated the Additional Attorney General at Lahore, Chaudhry Ishtiaq Ahmed Khan, about the recommendation. He will now inform the Lahore High Court about the federal government’s stance, the Dawn News reported.

The court sought the law ministry’s response after going through a statement by the World Health Organisation, which has declared virginity testing as “unscientific, medically unnecessary and unreliable”.

The court is seized with two public interest litigation petitions which have challenged the TFT, the report said.

One petition was filed by a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) member of the National Assembly and the other by a group of women’s rights activists, academics, journalists and advocates.

The petitioners contended that the TFT was “disrespectful, inhumane and violated women’s fundamental rights”.

At a previous hearing last month, the Punjab Specialised Healthcare and Medical Education Department and the Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department had observed in their submissions to the court that the TFT had limited evidentiary value vis-à-vis determination of virginity and, therefore, should be struck off the protocol of medico-legal certificate (MLC).

The Lahore High Court is expected to resume the hearing in the first week of next month, but in the meantime, the law ministry has come out with its response on the issue. It will be placed before the court during the next hearing.

In a statement, the law ministry observed that the TFT was an “inconclusive test”. In addition, the manner in which the test was conducted violated Article 14 of the Constitution which lays down that human dignity and the privacy of home must be respected under all circumstances and that the right to privacy would take precedence over any other inconsistent provisions of the law, the daily said.

The petitioners had sought a declaration that these practices constituted a violation of women’s fundamental rights, including the rights to life, privacy, dignity, bodily integrity, access to justice, protection from cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, and freedom from discrimination.

The petitioners further contended that this test nurtures myths and inaccuracies about female anatomy by ignoring the prevalence of different forms of sexual violence against women and children.

They regretted that the test was still rife in the country despite calls for its revocation by healthcare professionals and human rights organisations the world over.

“The continued use of TFT and hymen tests does not lead to any evidence that should be considered relevant to a trial and is aimed solely at drawing conclusions about the character, morality, chastity, social standing, past sexual activity and credibility of women who have been victims of these crimes,” the petition said.

The petition pointed out that the Human Rights Watch, UN Human Rights Organisation and the WHO have called for the elimination of the TFT.

The petitioners called upon governments to take measures to ensure physical and mental health of all women undergoing medico-legal examination and to adopt scientific methods of investigating claims of rape and sexual assault.

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