The provincial health authorities have told the Lahore High Court that the two-finger test (TFT), an old practice of examining sexual assault survivors, has limited evidentiary value and will be eliminated from the protocol of medico-legal certificate (MLC) unless required.
The test is still used in Pakistan regardless of calls for its cancellation by healthcare professionals and human rights organisations.
“It is not objective of the medical examination of a female victim of sexual assault to comment about the character of the examinee neither TFT is being practiced with that objective nor it has any strong evidentiary value related to the determination of virginity,” says a joint reply by the Punjab Specialised Healthcare and Medical Education Department, the Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department and surgeon medico-legal Lahore.
As per reports, the reply was submitted on Friday during the hearing of two public interest petitions challenging the TFT for being disrespectful, inhuman and violative to the fundamental rights of women.
The petitions mainly plead the demeaning practice whereby medico-legal officers perform a hymen test and a “two-finger test” as part of medical evaluation of women victims is unreliable and unnecessary and has no scientific basis.
Responding to the points raised in the petitions, the government’s reply states that only certified women medical officer (WMO) do the TFT and that too after the consent of the victim or her guardian in a written form.
“In case of refusal by the victim, the medical examination is not conducted and the referring court is informed in writing,” it says.
Justice Ayesha A. Malik will resume hearing on the petitions on Nov 6 when the petitioners will appear with their responses.
One petition was filed by PML-N MNA Shaista Pervez Malik while women rights activists, academics, journalists and advocates were petitioners in the other. They include Sadaf Aziz, Farida Shaheed, Farieha Aziz, Farah Zia, Sarah Zaman, Maliha Zia Lari, Dr. Aisha Babar and Zainab Husain.
Advocate Sahar Zareen Bandial and Barrister Sameer Khosa are the lead counsel for the petitioners.