Fighting Pakistan’s Rape Culture: The Two-Finger Test

Pakistan and its economy are taking a step in the right direction by banning the two-finger test labeling it as illegal and unconstitutional.

Human rights activists, lawyers, and journalists all over the world have been celebrating the Pakistani courts’ decision to outlaw the two fingers test. The two-finger test has been an invasive practice in Punjab whereby rape victims were checked for whether or not their hymen was intact.

Lahore High Court Judge Ayesha Malik was at the forefront of the outlawing and she commented that the two-finger test had “no forensic value” and that it was “humiliating.” Campaigners and petitioners have long argued that the test has forensic value and further perpetuates the system in which the victim has to go through endless trauma.

I spoke to many lawyers and human rights activists for their comments on this progression and its implications. All of them seemed very hopeful with this progression and said that they wanted to wait till they could see the implementation locally.

Barrister Khadija Siddiqi, in the interview, commented “The archaic two-finger test is finally done away with, a practice which was not only a sheer violation of the survivors right to dignity but also subjected the survivor through an added horror, rape followed by medical practitioner inserting 2 fingers in the vagina to ascertain her virginity, as if it were a prerequisite for demanding justice.” Campaigners argued that ascertaining a rape case on the basis of virginity both has no forensic value and also culturally perpetuates the rape culture and victim shaming. Human rights activist, Nayab Gohar Jan, for instance, said “The rape culture is so pertinent that our entire discourse is shaped around silencing victims of sexual violence.” She further commented that the outlawing of the two-finger test was long overdue and that it is a step in the right direction “because it should not matter whether or not a victim of rape had that their hymen intact.” Nayab also pointed out that it is important to note that such tests fit into the “patriarchal project” under which women’s value is placed in their bodies and virginity.

Blogger and Human Rights Activist Naveen Rizvi said, “This is an accomplishment but we are still far behind where we need to be. The test being outlawed doesn’t eradicate the primary problem that Pakistan ranks 6th on the list of the world’s most dangerous places for women. It remains a country with high rates of sexual assault and gender-based violence.” Many other interviewees shared her concern over the fact that the rape culture is still very prevalent in Pakistan and there is a very long way to go.

From a psychological and trauma-management point of view, activist Maheen Ghani who actively works around gender-based violence and trauma argued that the two-finger test was a further violation of the survivors’ bodies and autonomy. “Let’s not dehumanize people and belittle their anguish even more. No women should have to suffer this violation.” She also stressed how the test could only “prove” intercourse and not rape which is why it was entirely unconstitutional and illogical. She stressed how it is very important to create spaces and systems in which victims’ privacy and the sensitivities of the experience are respected. She added, “ I think women who have suffered any act of violence should be given counseling, support, and comfort.”

The two-finger test is one step in the right direction, but human rights workers and activists continue to further the discourse around fighting rape culture.

By Mahnoor Syed.

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