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The Two-Finger Test in India: Addressing the Controversial Practice

Last Updated on September 11, 2023 by Administrator

The PV (Per Vaginal) test, commonly known as the two-finger test, is an intrusive physical examination of a woman’s vagina to determine the laxity of her vaginal muscles and whether or not her hymen is distensible. The doctor inserts two fingers into the woman’s vaginal opening, and the ease with which the digits penetrate her is said to be proportional to her sexual experience.

If the fingers go in easily, the woman is assumed to be sexually active; if the fingers do not penetrate or have difficulty penetrating, the lady is presumed to have her hymen intact, indicating that she is a virgin. This test is one of the tests among the other virginity tests that are conducted.

Why is this test considered ethically and morally wrong?

As we read earlier, this type of test determines, in one way or the other, the purity or the chastity of a woman and is most commonly used for judicial matters. In matters of court, it is used for rape victims, and its results are produced in court as evidence. The results of these types of tests were frequently given to lawyers, who utilized them as evidence in court to defend their clients.

The entire procedure is inequitable to women and, therefore, unethical. The technique also lacks a scientific foundation, and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of the Government of India has fully rejected it in its guidelines and instructions for sexual abuse victims. They cite the following grounds for terminating this process:

  • In circumstances of sexual violence, vaginal introitus has no bearing.
  • The hymen’s status or size is irrelevant because the hymen can be torn for a variety of reasons, including cycling, riding, and so on;
  • A ripped hymen does not indicate sexual intercourse, and an unbroken hymen does not rule out the possibility of sexual violence.
  • Per vaginum examination has one drawback: it can only be performed on adult females.

Thus, when documenting examinations in situations of sexual violence, the hymen should be treated as any other part of the genital, and other events such as bleeding and oedema should be carefully documented. The combined efforts of the judiciary, activists, governmental and non-governmental groups have resulted in significant progress in the delivery of justice.

International stand of the two-finger test

In October 2018, the World Health Organization, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and UNWOMEN issued a joint statement calling for the prohibition of all forms of virginity testing, including the two-finger test. These tests lack medical utility and scientific accuracy in determining any sexual activity, according to UN authorities, and can have a profoundly negative impact on the victim. This long-awaited call will be of immense assistance to human rights activists, NGOs, and other organizations working to abolish the practice. It could also help state-level developments achieve the same goal.

The call is in line with international norms for prosecuting sexual abuse, which state that judges cannot examine a survivor’s sexual history, behaviour, or habits. See, for example, Rules 70 and 71 of the International Criminal Court’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence, which state that “Credibility, character, or predisposition to sexual availability of a victim or witness cannot be inferred by reason of the sexual nature of a victim’s or witness’s prior or subsequent conduct.”

In light of this, “a Chamber shall not admit evidence of the prior or subsequent sexual conduct of a victim or witness”. Indeed, virginity testing is a violation of the survivor’s international human rights, which include the right to non-discrimination on the basis of sex, physical and sexual integrity, prohibition of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatments, right to privacy, equality before the courts and tribunals, and equal protection of the law, which primarily include Articles 2,3, 7,17,14, and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Recent events in a number of countries signal a step in the right direction, as the United Nations has called for. The Supreme Court of Bangladesh issued a positive, albeit late, judgement in April 2018, five years after six national human rights organizations submitted a petition demanding for the practice’s prohibition, confirming the two-finger test’s lack of scientific and legal substance.

Medical personnel were not to perform the test, and judicial personnel were not to give the test’s “results” any weight in the courtroom, according to the Supreme Court.

 We have seen how our own country and other countries, along with the UN, can work together in eradicating this harmful practice. Legislative improvements, on the other hand, can be a helpful starting step toward ending the detrimental practice. More countries should create policies prohibiting the use of the two-finger test and any other form of virginity testing. Following that, policies must be implemented and enforced effectively.

Other steps can and should be taken by countries to respond to the UN’s appeal to eliminate the practice completely, protect survivors from further harm, and make courtrooms more just. Two fingers are incapable of telling the truth. Plus, determining a woman’s character and purity in such a manner is utterly disrespectful and a blow to her honour and dignity. Hence, abolishing such practices is only the right thing to do.

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