Bangladesh`s activists seek ban on rape victim `finger test`

Last Updated: Monday, February 4, 2013 - 16:42

Dhaka: Bangladeshi rights groups and experts on Monday asked for revision of a century-old "demeaning" medical evidence law that requires rape victims to undergo a test during which doctors use their two fingers to confirm sexual assaults.

"The so-called two-finger test used by Bangladesh doctors in their examination of rape victims must be stopped," said a statement issued by Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) containing signatures of 100 experts including rights activists, doctors and legal experts.

It added: "The two-finger test is demeaning and does not provide any evidence that is relevant to proving the offence".

The "two-finger" test is used to gauge if a woman who is alleging rape is `habituated to sex` and if her hymen is broken under a law enacted in 1872 when the country was under British colonial rule.

"I have asked them (rights groups and experts) to give their recommendations in details so the government could take appropriate steps to review it also involving the health and home affairs ministries," State Minister for Women and Children Shirin Sharmin said.

Sharmin, however, added that since it was technical and medical issues were at play, the expert opinions of forensic doctors would be of crucial importance in taking any decision on the law for the two-finger test.

He was replying to a query on the demand made by the activists.

Additional Deputy Police Commissioner of Dhaka Ayesha Siddika said the two-finger had shortfalls in examining a rape victim while use of the term "habituated to sex" is problematic, particularly in cases of married women, and persons who`ve previously had relations with the rapist.

BLAST`s executive director Sara Hossain said sexual history of the victim was not "legally relevant to whether sexual assault or rape has occurred, and the law needs to change to reflect this".

The rights groups have long been campaigning for revision of the law and the activists demand came as Bangladesh in recent years has witnessed growing complaints of rape or sexual assaults.

Rights group Odhikar reported 805 rape cases in 2012 based on newspaper reports alone and believed to be under reported but the figure appeared almost double compared to newspaper reports appeared in 2009.

PTI



First Published: Monday, February 4, 2013 - 16:42

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