In a previous piece, we’d highlighted how lack of uniform regulation has kept the appalling two-finger test alive in hospitals. It looks like finally there have been steps taken to regulate how one treats rape survivors in hospitals.
According to a report, the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences (MUHS) has revised the syllabus of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology in second-year MBBS and MD in forensic medicine to train aspiring doctors in medico-legal examination. This will largely benefit survivors of sexual assault and rape. The MUHS has announced that it will introduce the revised syllabus in the current academic session. This is landmark move in medical education in India because this is the first Indian medical university to officially adopt the format formulated by the Centre in 2014.
The new syllabus dictates that a survivor could go directly to hospital for medical treatment, as opposed to visiting the police station first to lodge a complaint. Kalidas Chavan, Registrar at MUHS, says to The Times of India, “The new guidelines prescribe a proper list of samples that doctors need to collect. Earlier, the process was not uniform and the doctors collected only those samples that were demanded by the police. While medico-legal examination can be done by private practitioners only at the behest of cops, they have to mandatorily give basic treatment to the survivors. Many doctors are still ignorant about the rules and direct the women to government hospitals.”
As per the new syllabus, doctors now have to mandatorily provide psychological support to assault survivors and have to strictly refrain from expressing any judgement or use insensitive language. Doctors are also obligated to examine survivors in a private examination room and not in a public ward or the Out Patient Department. Moreover, doctors will be educated on how to actually treat survivors like patients who’ve undergone trauma and not like they’re walking talking crime scenes. Doctors will be instructed to no longer use terms like ‘evidence of rape’ in their medical reports and only dictate their medical findings.
Also important is to note that doctors will be trained to perform DNA and sperm tests without waiting for police sanction. MUHS is not stopping at this. According to Dr Indrajit Khandekar, who is responsible for pushing this new syllabus, MUHS is in touch with the Centre and Medical Council of India to get more medical colleges and universities to include the new format in their syllabus.
Can we have more of Dr Khandekars, please?
While we applaud this MUHS’s initiative, it’s high time proper medico-legal practices are normalised and regulated. Rates of sexual assault are showing no signs of dropping. The least survivors could have is a safe and compassionate first treatment.