Court in Pakistan Bans ‘Virginity Tests’ in Sexual Violence Cases

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KARACHI, Pakistan — A courtroom within the northern metropolis of Lahore in Pakistan has abolished so-called virginity exams, which ladies are subjected to in sexual assault circumstances, setting a precedent for the follow to be doubtlessly outlawed nationwide.

The followbanned in neighboring Afghanistan, India and Bangladesh — continues to happen in Pakistan and greater than a dozen different nations the place it’s seen as a measure of advantage and of whether or not a lady is reliable.

If two fingers may be simply inserted into the vagina, supporters of the follow say, it reveals {that a} girl shouldn’t be a virgin, and thus lacks ethical authority to make an assault or rape accusation.

The petitioners — a gaggle of ladies that features a sociologist, a journalist, an activist, a lawyer and a psychologist, in addition to a member of the decrease home of Parliament — argued that analyzing whether or not the hymen was intact had no scientific or authorized bearing in sexual violence circumstances, and violated constitutional rights to privateness and dignity.

The Lahore High Court, within the province of Punjab, agreed on Monday.

“It is a humiliating practice, which is used to cast suspicion on the victim, as opposed to focusing on the accused,” Justice Ayesha A. Malik wrote.

The ruling was instantly hailed throughout Pakistan, with no high-profile public critiques, suggesting it has widespread help.

Women’s rights activists referred to as it a vital step towards bettering the investigative and judicial course of for victims of sexual violence in a rustic the place rape convictions are uncommon.

“We hope that the judgment will be implemented by all government authorities across the country to ensure that such unlawful practices are immediately prohibited,” mentioned Farieha Aziz, a Karachi-based rights activist and one of many petitioners.

Shireen Mazari, the human rights minister within the authorities of Prime Minister Imran Khan, wrote in a tweet on Monday that the ruling was a “landmark judgment” in opposition to a “demeaning and absurd” follow.

Editorials in English-language Pakistani newspapers additionally praised the ruling. “A raped woman needs justice, and that certainly doesn’t require her sexuality to be placed in the dock,” one editorial in The News mentioned Wednesday.

Credit…B.Okay Bangash/Associated Press

Sameer Khosa, a lawyer representing the petitioners, mentioned the courtroom’s judgment may pave the way in which for a ban on such testing elsewhere in Pakistan.

“It will also end character assassination and humiliation of victims of rape and sexual assault in court proceedings,” Mr. Khosa mentioned.

The Sindh Province’s courtroom in Karachi, which is listening to an analogous petition, requested the authorities in December to current pointers on forensic examinations in sexual assault circumstances according to internationally acknowledged practices.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has rejected claims in recent times {that a} girl’s accusation of rape may be dismissed on the premise of a “virginity test.”

In its judgment, the Lahore courtroom cited a 2010 Supreme Court case wherein the justices dominated that even when a lady didn’t move the take a look at, “no blanket authority can be given to rape her by anyone who wishes to do so.”

In its ruling, the Lahore courtroom additionally thought of Pakistan’s worldwide obligations. It identified that the nation is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination in opposition to Women. Experts charged with implementing that treaty have mentioned there isn’t a scientific or medical foundation for “virginity testing” in sexual violence circumstances.

The World Health Organization and United Nations mentioned in a 2018 report urging nations to ban the follow that it “reinforces sociocultural norms that perpetuate women’s inequality, including stereotyped views of female morality and sexuality, and serves to exercise control over women and girls.”

Still, W.HO. says the follow persists in not less than 20 different nations, the place it’s used not simply in felony sexual violence circumstances, but additionally earlier than a wedding and even, in Indonesia, to evaluate employment eligibility.

Legislation in New York State was proposed in 2019 to ban the follow after the rapper T.I. revealed that he took his daughter to a gynecologist yearly to make sure that her hymen was nonetheless intact.

In Pakistan, President Arif Alvi issued an ordinance outlawing the so-called two-finger take a look at nationwide in response to protests over a grisly rape on a freeway close to Lahore in September. The ordinance, nevertheless, will lapse after 120 days until it’s voted into legislation by Parliament, which is unlikely to occur.

The presidential ordinance additionally says males convicted of rape may be sentenced to chemical castration.

In a religiously conservative nation the place belief in police and the judicial system is low, a “virginity test”gives an additional impediment for rape victims and their households, activists say. They have demanded that investigators rely extra closely on customary DNA kits to find out the validity of rape accusations.

Dr. Qarar Abbasi, a senior police surgeon in Karachi and a member of a Sindh Province reform committee, mentioned the exams had been taught in medical faculty textbooks and used as some extent of reference for authorized practitioners.

He mentioned the committee was updating the medical curriculum and hoping to rent extra ladies medical doctors who concentrate on forensic medication in authorities hospitals, the place the police convey proof, in addition to provide them “training to familiarize themselves with modern medico-legal practices in the cases related to violence against women.”

Emily Schmall reported from New Delhi, and Zia ur-Rehman from Karachi, Pakistan.

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