LHC landmark judgement: two finger virginity tests declared ‘illegal’ and ‘unconstitutional’

By Abdullah Zahid.

The Lahore High Court on Monday ruled against the two-finger or hymen test, calling it a “highly invasive” and “humiliating practice” that was not a “scientific or medical requirement” in sexual violence cases.

The verdict was announced by Justice Ayesha A Malik in a petitionfiled in March and June 2020 by rights activists along with a PML-N lawmaker, challenging the use and conduct of virginity tests.

The 30-page verdict stated that these tests offend “the personal dignity of the female victim and therefore is against the right to life and right to dignity enshrined in Article 9 and 14 of the Constitution.”

“It is also declared that virginity tests are discriminatory against the female victim as they are carried out on the basis of their gender, therefore, offends Article 25 of the Constitution, the judgement added.

“Consequently to the extent that the 2020 guidelines, SOPs, and the 2015 instructions that mandate the two-finger test or the hymen test for the purposes of ascertaining the virginity of the victim have been declared illegal and against the Constitution,” the judgment read.

The court directed federation and provincial government for taking necessary steps to ensure that virginity tests were not carried out in medico legal examination of the victims of rape and sexual abuse.

The judgement also directed provincial government to devise appropriate medico-legal protocols and guidelines, along with standard operating procedures, in line with international practice that recognize and manage sensitively the care of victims of sexual violence.

“This includes regular training and awareness programs so that all stakeholders understand that virginity tests have no clinical or forensic value,” it added.

Activists hope the decision will pave the way for a nationwide ban on the practice in Pakistan, with a second petition pending in Sindh province.

The United Nations has for years said the test is painful, inaccurate and a violation of human rights, with no place in modern society. The World Health Organization has declared the test “unscientific, medically unnecessary and unreliable.” Neighbouring India banned the test in 2013 and Bangladesh in 2018.

Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari embraced the judgment. She tweeted: “welcome decision but earlier the anti-rape ordinance already banned this test and it is applicable across the country.”

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