The Health Ministry has advised doctors not to use the word ‘rape’ in medical reports on s*xual assault victims, and even in court depositions.
“Rape is not a medical diagnosis, it is a legal definition, hence the word should not be used while forwarding opinion,” says the latest Instruction Manual for Forensic Medical Examination Report of Sexual Assault (Victim) brought out by the Indian Council of Medical Research under the Department of Health Research (DHR). The victim must not be refused treatment and examination for want of police papers.
The recommendations, which also carry a draft of a ToolKit for Psychological Support for Women Survivors of Sexual Assault, are open to public opinion.
Importantly, the manual suggests that doctors should not identify a victim as ‘habituated to s*xual intercourse’ on the basis of a ‘finger test.’ Such identification is an unlawful interference with her privacy and an unlawful attack on her honour and reputation and is violation of her human rights. “In a prosecution of s*xual assault, where the question of consent is at issue, evidence of the character of the victim or of her previous s*xual experience with any person is not relevant to the issue of consent or quality of consent.”