Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), one of the partner organisations of Community Legal Services (CLS), filed a public interest litigation writ petition before the High Court Division of the Supreme Court against the government of Bangladesh, alleging that the medical procedures routinely performed during sexual assault investigations violate the Bangladeshi Constitution. The complaint centred on the ‘Two Finger Test’ challenging the legality of continuation of the controversial test, whereby an examining doctor inserts his/her two fingers into a woman’s vagina to determine whether sexual intercourse has occurred or not and submits his/her opinion as to whether the victim was ‘habituated to sexual intercourse’ or not. This petition has been based on months’ long research and consultation with concerned specialists and reviews of their own case stories as well as coordination and networking with concerned organizations
BLAST argued that such bizarre practices not only violate fundamental rights, but are also ‘unscientific, degrading and legally irrelevant’ which is emotionally traumatising to the sexual assault victims. The Forensic Specialists have stated that the ‘Two Finger Test’ conducted with the fingers of an examining doctor is absolutely irrational as the hymen indicating virginity of the victim may be torn or damaged by physical exercise, disease or due to menstruation. Proficient consultation among medical professionals, law enforcement agencies, women’s rights advocates, and government officials noted with concern that the so-called ‘Two Finger Test’ conducted by the physicians in medical colleges across the country on women and girls who have made complaints of sexual assault has no forensic value.
In response to the complaint filed by BLAST, on 8 October 2013, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh issued a rule asking the concerned government authorities to show cause why the ‘Two Finger Test’ carried out on sexual assault victims should not be declared illegal. The Court also ordered various government agencies, including the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Inspector General of Police, to provide justification for these unreasonable practices violating the Constitution as well as the continued use of the ‘Two Finger Test’, which proves to be an invasive and inconclusive medical procedure as part of medico legal examination of the victims. If such justification was not provided, the Court ordered the respondents to set up an expert committee composed of forensic specialists, law enforcement agencies, public health officials and others to develop comprehensive guidelines within three months for the judges, police and examining doctors.
Subsequently the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare formed an Expert Committee to write the new guidelines which are expected to terminate these dreadful practices for good as well as mandate sensitivity training for the examining doctors who treat the victims. Since the authorities provided no guidelines earlier specifying what to do and what to not for the on duty physicians while providing emergency medical aid or comprehensive health care for the sexual assault victims, the preliminary draft of the new guidelines is expected to put an end to the ‘Two Finger Test’ which the victims are subjected to after the sexual assault.