Columns

The faces of rape

By RAMESH SUJANANI

Monday, February 25, 2013    

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It is no secret that survivors of rape in most countries are humiliated and discriminated. They could face it in their own homes, police stations and then in the hospital where they undergo invasive medical tests that go no further beyond harming their case later in the legal process.

While in our outrage over the brutality of the numerous rape cases and seeking the harshest possible punishments for the culprits, little has been said so far about the treatment of rape victims by making our police force more aware.

Our legal process requires the conducting of a medical test which is performed on the basis of a fact sheet that has to be filled by a doctor. Further we don't have a uniform fact sheet across the country. The most controversial part of the test: the much reviled 'two-finger' test.

A doctor at the government hospital inserts two fingers into the rape victim's vagina to check for the presence or absence of the hymen and also to check the 'laxity' of the vagina, ostensibly to check if penile penetration has taken place. He then examines the genitals for evidence of bruising, as there is usually some in the event of forced coitus.

In a case of rape, the least relevant fact is whether or not the victim is accustomed to sexual intercourse. The question lies in whether or not the one forced sexual encounter for which the complaint has been filed, is valid. The two-finger test only seeks to establish prior sexual activity and unlike other forensic medical tests which do not prove rape (like DNA). However, just imagine the comments that will be passed if the woman has indeed had prior sexual activity.

Volunteers who have worked with sexual assault victims say the fact sheet which is followed is just another feature of the gender insensitivity to rape survivors.

"The problem with tests like the two-finger test and a test which tests for the tear of the hymen moves the issue from sexual assault to the woman's sexual history", says a reputable physician.

The problem also lies with the fact that there isn't a uniform fact which states exactly what a doctor needs to examine, and more importantly not examine, in the case of a victim of sexual assault. In many cases, the doctor just writes down his opinion on a piece of paper and sends it to the police, as an expert.

And while we may be working towards a uniform procedure for examining adult victims of sexual assault, there is no change yet for children who are victims of sexual abuse. A proper procedure would ensure that the victim does not face harassment in court, and that legal rights are not compromised.

There is another side to this coin however. It concerns sexual liaison between adult men and teenage girls. Girls are not much different than boys in their perceptions. Women and teenage girls have sexual fantasies, from an early age, and not about boys their age; rather grown men, who may be Hollywood actors, sportsmen, rock stars, and DJ's. In the 1970s the schoolgirl 'thing' was an attraction to both sexes.

The age of consent has been varied many times in many countries: In Japan it is 13, Jamaica 16, Australia 16, USA 16-18. Back in the 70s/80/s, groupie teenage sex was common, which was not pedophilia. Homosexuality's age of consent is higher.

Celebrities are frequently targeted by wanton young ladies. Children, men and women, should be protected from unwanted sexual behaviour: There are laws and rules for the women, but what about the men?

We are often influenced by our environment, including our peers, and what we did when young cannot determine our behaviour when older. Yet, I notice that men in particular are charged with sexual crimes committed some years ago.

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