Mumbai: In a shocking incident, around ten women employees of the Surat Municipal Corporation were allegedly made to strip naked at a state-run hospital and subjected to a violative ‘two-finger test’ to check for pregnancy. The Times of India report published on Friday says that all ten women hold clerical post and that the doctors, all women, also asked them several personal questions while conducting the test. This test was conducted as a part of a mandatory fitness test.
This is a second case of violation of women’s privacy and their bodily integrity in Gujarat in recent times. Just a few days ago, in another shocking incident, 68 undergraduate students at a college in Bhuj town were allegedly forced to remove their undergarments to prove they were not menstruating.
Following the Surat incident, the municipal corporation employees’ union has complained to the municipal commissioner that when over 100 employees had visited the Surat Municipal Institute of Medical Education and Research for their mandatory fitness test, female employees were segregated and forced to stand naked together in groups of around 10 in a room. Their complaint states that women’s privacy was also compromised.
According to a PTI report, following the complaint, the municipal commissioner Banchhanidhi Pani has ordered a probe into the allegations, and set up a three-member inquiry committee, and asked it to submit a report in 15 days.
The ‘two-finger test’ or the Per Vaginal (PV test), which was at one point commonly conducted on rape survivors to probe into their sexual history, has been time and again criticised by the Supreme Court and several high courts. Through these tests the doctors would “establish” laxity of vaginal muscles and whether the hymen is distensible or not. This has continued even after a proviso was added into the Evidence Act, under section 146, in 2003 which bans any reference to the past sexual history of the person. Similarly, in 2013, the Supreme Court, in the case of Lilu@ Rajesh VS State of Haryana has ruled that conducting the two- finger test was “unconstitutional”.
A division bench of the Gujarat high court, as recently as in January 2020, has observed that the “archaic and outdated” practice of the “two-finger test” was violative of the victim’s rights of privacy, physical and mental integrity and dignity.
However, these repeated judgments did not seem to deter the Surat district authorities from subjecting them its women employees to this test.
A.A. Shaikh, the general secretary of the employees’ union, is quoted as having told the TOI, “The issue was brought to the knowledge of SMCEU by a few trainee women employees out of the nearly 400 whose services will be regularised this year.”
“On hearing about their trauma, we demanded an immediate halt to such insulting and inhuman tests. I have never heard such a test on women employees anywhere else,” Shaikh added.
Shaikh said performing the finger test was demeaning. “If they [doctors] had any doubt about an employee’s health, they should have got tests done in an acceptable manner.”