Errant forensic practices mustn’t go unpunished

Published: 00:05, Apr 14,2018 | Updated: 00:43, Apr 14,2018

 
 

JUSTICE for rape victims still remains a far cry. Aggrieved women often refuse to file complaints considering further harassment and humiliation during police investigation and trial. Time and again, it has been reported how victims are subjected to further violence and discrimination in the name of medical examination to collect rape evidence. The continued practice of two-finger test to establish whether a woman was raped has been proved to be invasive and traumatising. Medical experts worldwide, including in Bangladesh, argued that this test is unreliable and unscientific. In 2013, the Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust moved High Court, challenging the test. In response, the court in October that year questioned the legality and authenticity of the test. The High Court verdict banning the use of ‘two-finger test’ of rape victims came in this context. The verdict termed the test, as New Age reported on Friday, one with no scientific and legal merit. It has also asked the authorities concerned to not use ideologically-biased words and comments such as the victims have habitual sexual intercourse or ask any question about the victim’s sexual experience in legal proceedings. This makes it a milestone verdict in the process of establishing an unbiased legal system for survivors of rape and sexual violence.
While the banning of the two-finger test is a bold step to bring about changes in the system infested with patriarchal bias and other corruption, it is not enough to ensure justice for rape victims. In the current system, rape cases rely heavily on the forensic reports. Apart from the two-finger test, there are other problems that hinder a proper post-rape medical examination of victims. There are serious allegations against forensic experts that they often conduct and submit reports being influenced by vested interests. It was explicitly evident in the rape and murder of college student and theatre activist Sohagi Jahan Tonu. The incoherence between different reports — inquest report, post-mortem examination report and DNA test report — then prompted the National Human Rights Commission chairman to blame forensic experts for tampering evidence and burying the truth. There are also cases where forensic experts are involved in producing false reports for money. It has been quite some time now that the human rights lawyer from Chittagong Hill Tracts has alleged that forensic experts are prone to produce false reports in rape cases under pressure from civil and military administration there. The government should, therefore, make the health protocol available to forensic experts and physicians for medical examinations of rape victims.
The government, under the circumstances, must ensure that the High Court verdict is communicated to all authorities concerned, including the police and forensic experts. In addition to the protocol for the healthcare provider drafted following the guideline of the World Health Organisation, it must develop an ethical code of conduct to ensure that ethical breach on part of them in producing false reports does not go unchecked.

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