If the proposed revised Kerala medico-legal protocol for examination of survivors of sexual offences gets the health department’s nod, it is likely to come as a major relief for sexual assault survivors who do not report immediately after the crime.
While the current protocol makes it mandatory for all the survivors to undergo vaginal examination, the National Health Mission (NHM) Kerala has proposed a revision in this, seeking to limit the need for compulsory examination. Those survivors who come to the medical facility over a week after the incident will not be mandated to undergo a vaginal test, if the new rules come into effect.
Speaking to TNM, NHM's State Programme Manager Dr Nita Vijayan said that the current protocol being practiced in the state was unfair to those survivors, who seek justice several weeks or months after the crime. The detailed physical examination, in such cases, yields absolutely no results in terms of evidence collected, Dr Nita pointed out.
"Say, one survivor is brought in six months after the crime happened. When a survivor is brought in, what is vital is to get as much evidence as possible with detailed examination. However, the body fluids and swabs and other evidence can be collected only within a week of the incident. When the survivor is brought in after weeks or months, the detailed 15-page examination report that the doctors are now mandatorily required to file, will have most of the columns vacant. Then what is the point of putting the survivor through it?" Dr Nita asked.
The revised medico legal protocol also takes into account physical examination of transgender survivors.
The current protocol states: "Examination of a woman survivor of sexual assault shall generally be done by a female doctor. Examination of a girl survivor (aged below 18 years) shall only be done by a woman doctor."
"According to the protocol, a woman survivor is required to be examined by a woman doctor. However, there was no mention of who should examine transgender survivors. In the revised proposal, we have included this too. We have said that it should be left to the transgender person to decide whether he/she should be examined by a male or a female doctor," Dr Nita said.
Until the proposed protocol is cleared by the health department, the doctors in the state will continue to follow the current guidelines. However, once the proposed revisions are accepted, it can translate into a major relief for several survivors, she pointed out.