The Union health ministry has issued new guidelines for the care and treatment of rape victims in India. From the 4th March 2014, all hospitals will now have to set up a designated room for forensic and medical examination of victims. It has also outlawed the two-finger test performed on them, dubbing it as outdated and unscientific.

Both the Department of Health Research (DHR) and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) formulated this set of national guidelines for dealing with criminal assault cases. It is hopeful that these guidelines will put a stop to the horrific medical process, which the victims are subjected to after the sexual abuse. In addition, the DHR has also drafted a new manual to address the psycho-social impact of sexual violence, which includes counselling for victims too. It is a common consensus that counselling should be a vital part of the recovery process as these attacks can cause severe psychological damage which can lead to mental health problems.

In order to formulate these guidelines, a great deal of effort was made to set up approaches to tackle the current situation. An experts’ group on gender and health, was formed by Dr V M Katoch, secretary to GOI-DHR and director general ICMR in November 2011 under the chairmanship of Dr M E Khan (secretary, Sexual Violence Research Initiative). Later on, Indrajit Khandekar, who is in charge of the Clinical Forensic Medicine Unit (CFMU) and associate professor at Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (MGIMS), Sevagram- Wardha, was responsible for drafting these guidelines.

 

The guidelines were originally first drafted and made available to the public and experts back in December 2013, but this was just for opinions and any concerns to be addressed. For example, Khandekar had conducted a report titled “pitiable & horrendous quality of forensic medical examination of sexual assault cases”.  He addressed the issue and said that “It has been observed that the rape victims are usually put under a horribly judgemental microscope from the moment they call up the cops. They are often subjected to judgmentally attitudes by both the doctors and other medical staff in the hospital. The new guidelines include that every hospital must have a designated room to deal with Medico Legal Cases (MLC) of sexual assault to provide privacy to the victim and must have essential equipments listed in the guidelines”.

 

These guidelines have now been made available to health care providers such as the Primary Health Centres and district hospitals, whenever a rape victim approaches them. Furthermore, it is an absolute must that there must be provisions to supply alternative clothing for the victims and smooth collection of MLC evidence, keeping in mind the sensitivity of the circumstances. In addition, training sessions for sensitising doctors and other medical staff for the protocols and guidelines for MLC examination/reporting of such cases, will now be mandatory. Also, if the doctor is male, a female attendant must be there.

 

It is now a requirement that doctors are to give the patient a structured explanation of what the examination comprises and how the various procedures may be carried out. All this should be explained in the manner and language which the patient can understand.

 

According to Khandekar, these new guidelines are a huge step in helping rape victims in India as they will hopefully ‘’plug the various loopholes present and thereby will help avoid miscarriage of justice and human rights violation’’.  

 

References

 

Govt issues fresh guidelines on medical care to rape victims, ends two-finger tests

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Govt-issues-fresh-guidelines-on-medical-care-to-rape-victims-ends-two-finger-test/articleshow/31393118.cms

 

 

New guidelines on medical care to treat rape victims issued

http://www.jagranjosh.com/current-affairs/new-guidelines-on-medical-care-to-treat-rape-victims-issued-1393930565-1

 

Fresh guidelines outlined on medical care to rape victims

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/rape-victims-new-guidelines-on-medical-care/1/346734.html