‘Raped twice’: Pakistan virginity tests block justice for victims

LAHORE: Raped at 14, Shazia took the uncommon and brave step of reporting the crime to Pakistani police, solely to face a traumatic “virginity test” — a long-standing apply that denies justice to victims.
{The teenager} was nonetheless in a daze after she was assaulted by her father’s cousin when police compelled her to see a physician, who performed the invasive medical examination supposed to find out whether or not she had a historical past of getting intercourse.
“She informed me to open my legs and inserted her fingers,” Shazia, not her actual identify, informed AFP in a written assertion.
“It was very painful. I did not know why she was doing it. I want my mom had been with me.”
In a rustic the place rape is vastly underreported and survivors of sexual assault are considered with suspicion, virginity assessments are sometimes ordered as a part of police investigations.
The outcome might be important to any felony case, with an single sufferer discredited if she is deemed to be sexually lively.
That goes a way in the direction of explaining Pakistan‘s abysmal rape conviction fee, activists and legal professionals say, with official knowledge placing it as little as 0.3 p.c.
The “two-finger test” endured by Shazia requires a physician to insert their fingers into the sufferer’s vagina and file whether or not they “entered simply” or not.
A girl is meant to conduct the examinations, however this guideline just isn’t all the time adopted.
Different visible virginity assessments — typically utilizing glass rods — search for indicators of healed tears or scarring.
They’ll have a harrowing impact on survivors of sexual assault, who already face horrible social stigma in a rustic obsessive about upholding the “honour” of girls.
“I wasn’t informed how they have been going to look at me. They solely stated that I needed to be seen by a physician to assist the police,” Shazia stated of her ordeal from three years in the past.
Shazia’s dad and mom, who filed the case, later dropped it following household stress.
Related virginity assessments are employed in not less than 20 nations all over the world from Brazil to Zimbabwe, in keeping with the World Health Organization.
It says the exams quantity to human rights violations and have completely no scientific advantage.
However Pakistani well being authorities have lengthy inspired all women and girls who report rape claims to be subjected to the assessments.
“I rely this as one other rape in itself,” Sidra Humayun, an activist who handles sexual assault instances, informed AFP.
“Most rape victims I’ve labored with have spoken of being traumatised by it.”
Court docket paperwork seen by AFP paint a vivid image of how feminine rape victims might be shamed and ridiculed if a medical officer concludes that they’ve a historical past of sexual activity.
A person convicted of raping a 15-year-old in a village exterior the town of Faisalabad was freed on enchantment in 2014, after the choose thought of the outcomes of the two-finger check and dominated that {the teenager} was a “woman of simple advantage”.
“The uncorroborated assertion of (the sufferer) will not be relied upon because it got here from the mouth of a spoilt woman,” the judgement stated.
The invasive examinations are typically performed with out the total understanding and even the consent of rape victims, usually by practitioners who lack sensitivity coaching, case staff and legal professionals say.
A girl physician working in considered one of Lahore’s authorities hospitals informed AFP she regarded younger rape victims with suspicion.
With out providing any proof, she claimed that households usually fabricate rape claims in the event that they uncover an single daughter is having intercourse.
“However we are able to simply decide by the assessments that we carry out whether or not the woman has had intercourse earlier than or not. So we all know which declare is pretend and which is not,” she stated on situation of anonymity.
Some historians say virginity assessments date again to the colonial period and have been utilized by the British to discredit native rape victims, with the apply extensively adopted in India and Pakistan after independence.
“It arose beneath colonial instances as a consequence of the misunderstanding or the stereotypical perception that native ladies are likely to lie about these crimes,” explains Sadaf Aziz, a campaigner towards the assessments.
Pakistan stays a deeply conservative nation, but there are indicators of mounting anger over the dealing with of sexual abuse instances.
The current gang-rape of a mom in entrance of her youngsters on a motorway sparked nationwide protests, fuelled by a police chief’s feedback that she mustn’t have been driving alone at evening.
Following the outcry, Pakistan’s president final month authorized a brand new anti-rape regulation which bans the two-finger check however doesn’t rule out visible virginity examinations.
The regulation has but to be ratified by parliament.
However activists this month achieved a significant win within the nation’s most populous province of Punjab, the place the Lahore Excessive Court docket outlawed all virginity assessments — the primary such ruling in Pakistan.
Attorneys hope it might spur a domino impact throughout the nation, with the same case making its manner by the courts in neighbouring Sindh province.

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