National Legal Research Desk is a Shakti Vahini Initiative
Sexual assault on women and children are some of the most heinous crimes against mankind. These crimes are such a menace that no age is exempted and they comprise of various natural and unnatural sexual offences. It has been estimated that there were 24923 reported cases of Rape in 2012 in India as compared to 20737 in 2007 (statistics published by the National Crime Records Bureau). The cases show a constantly rising pattern even today. In addition to this, the issue of trafficking of women & children for commercial sexual exploitation emerged in India after landmark decision of Hon’ble Supreme Court in the cases of Vishal Jeet (1990) &
Gaurav Jain (1997). In these cases, the Supreme Court issued directions to the Union & State governments to study the problem & prepare a National plan. Accordingly, in 1998, the government of India formulated the National Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking and Sexual
Exploitation of women & children.
However many cases of such assault remain unreported as a result of lack of awareness; social stigma attached to it and also in many cases accused being a family member. Victims of such assault are not willing to lodge a complaint also to avoid traumatizing experience during investigation. Therefore, whenever a complaint of sexual assault is lodged, the investigating team – which includes police, doctor, and Forensic scientist – should deliver their best, to help administration of justice.
Sexual assault, like any other form of violence, results in physical and psychological consequences. Thus, health care providers have a dual responsibility vis-à-vis victims of sexual assault. The first is to provide the victim/ patient with the required medical and psychological treatment care, while the second is to assist the victims in their medico-legal proceedings by collecting evidence and performing good quality and thorough forensic medical examination and documentation.
As per recent amendment i.e., 357 C Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) all hospitals, public or private, whether run by the Central Government, the State Government, local bodies or any other person, shall have to immediately, provide the first-aid or medical treatment, free of cost, to the victims of any offence covered under section 326A, 376, 376A, 376B, 376C, 376D or Forensic Medical Care for Survivors of Sexual Assault -A Draft Tool Kit for Health Care Workers.
Section 376E of the Indian Penal Code, and shall have to immediately inform the police of such
incident. Those who will contravene the provisions of section 357C of the Code of Criminal Procedure shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to one year or with fine or with both (166 B IPC).
The problem of sexual violence against women and female children is very serious and vast in nature. Due to the complexities related to commission of crime, criminal investigation and varied nature of various criminal acts it is not possible to describe every related aspect in depth. This manual, therefore is aimed at highlighting the important aspects of investigation of
such cases in precisely brief manner and more so in a practical way. The contents of this tool kit are mainly related to Forensic medical examination of victim, and cases of age determination.
The victims have faith and respect for the medical practitioners, who should be responded by humanly, empathetic, approach without ignoring technical procedure related to legal provisions of the case. Precise scientific approach by doctors is a necessity to counteract violation of human rights in such cases.
To deal with such victims, this manual is prepared for doctor to guide step-by-step approach while treating, examining, and collecting important evidence, documenting and forming opinion. No standard operating protocol / manual / formats can be designed with presumption or prejudice for either of the party involved in the cases of sexual assault. This is necessary for helping the process of crime investigation in a just manner. This will also insure that the members of the agencies involved in this process perform their role in a scientific manner to effectively aid the administration of justice. This manual desires the same and is aimed at insuring natural justice to be delivered to the deserving party.
Despite extensive peer review and strenuous efforts to formulate these guidelines we recognize that there is always room for improvement when developing guidelines of this nature. It is needless to say that this manual and formats may require timely review in view of scientific advancement, problems observed, amendments in the related laws and Hon’ble Court judgments.
It is recommended that two to three day training programme be designed and implemented for the doctors and paramedics/ nursing staff involved in the process of Forensic Medical examination of cases of sexual assault. This is quite necessary in view of scientific Forensic Medical Care for Survivors of Sexual Assault -A Draft Tool Kit for Health Care Workers. Advancement, large number of loopholes in such examination, amendments in the related laws
and Hon’ble Court judgments.
FORENSIC MEDICAL CARE FOR VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT – A Tool Kit for Health Care Workers