Regressive and patriarchal laws is one thing, unjust and inhuman quite another. However, as per the reports that emerge every now and then of rape victims being subjected to a torturous virginity test, it seems Pakistan's failed judicial system is all of them.
Of the marginal fraction of rape cases that reach the police and finally the courts, the rape victims are not only judged or blamed but tortured as well. As for justice, the traumatic 'two-finger test' ensures that it is often denied to them.
As per yet another heart-rending report that's come to the fore, a man convicted of raping a 15-year-old in a village outside the city of Faisalabad was freed on appeal in 2014 after the judge took into account results of a 'two-finger test.' Reason? "The uncorroborated statement of (the victim) may not be relied upon as it came from the mouth of a 'spoilt girl,' said the judge.
As per a recent AFP report, one of the victims gave a written statement about the examination that police forced her to go through. The victim was further assaulted into submission for the test by her father's cousin. "She told me to open my legs and inserted her fingers," said the girl in a written statement. "It was very painful. I didn't know why she was doing it. I wish my mother had been with me." Is it any wonder that the girl's parents, who filed the case, later dropped it?
What is a two-finger test?
The two-finger virginity test is ordered to find out whether the victim has a history of having sex. How should that anyway even affect the judgements in a rape case is what the human rights activists have been long raising their voice against.
Though the virginity test is legally supposed to be conducted by a lady doctor, this guideline being flouted is not unheard of. An unmarried rape victim can be discredited if as per examination, she is deemed to be sexually active. And the accused can be freed. That explains Pakistan's shameful rape conviction rate, which official data puts at as low as 0.3 %, say the activists and lawyers.
11 rape incidents being reported in Pakistan every day
As per official statistics obtained from the Police Law, and Justice Commission of Pakistan, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and reported by Geo News in November last year, at least 11 rape incidents are reported in the country every day. Only 41 per cent of rape cases are reported to the police. In the past six years, over 22,000 cases have been reported and out of which only 77 of the accused have been convicted. Which puts the conviction rate at an abysmal 0.3 per cent.
Change - too late, too little?
Earlier in the month, human rights campaigners welcomed the decision by Lahore High Court which put an end to the practice of physical checks for an 'intact hymen' and the invasive 'two-finger virginity test.'
In her ruling, Justice Malik had said the test has no scientific or medical requirement. "It is a humiliating practice which is used to cast suspicion on the victim, as opposed to focussing on the accused and the incident of sexual violence," she said.
The ruling which applies to Punjab province was partly fuelled by nationwide furore on the recent gang rape of a mother in front of her children on a motorway. The police chief also faced strong backlash after his comments that she should not have been driving alone at night.
Pakistan's president last month also approved a new anti-rape law which bans two-finger test. While the law is yet to be ratified by Parliament, however, it does not rule out other visual virginity examinations. The World Health Organisation has called the practice a human rights violation, stating that the test has no scientific merit.