With the publication of this compact document a long felt need to bring about a certain degree of uniformity in approaching, treating and documenting cases of sexual violence, mainly against women and girls should get fulfilled. Even so, there still maybe some gaps in these guideline which need to be plugged and through feedback received from various quarters further improvements can be effected in them. Thus, the exercise of drawing up these guidelines has to be treated as an iterative one and the process would need to continue till such time as a reasonable level of definitiveness can be brought into them.
The guidelines, have specially been drawn up for rape cases, although they could be used in other cases of sexual violence as well. Statistics pertaining to sexual and physical violence against women in this country are alarming as around one in three is likely to face this sort of violence in her lifetime. Thirty three percent plus is a big number while the approach to mitigating such problems has to be a holistic one cutting across boundaries.
The guidelines are essentially aimed at doctors who might one day be called upon to handle female victims of sexual assault / rape in the course of their duty whether in a government hospital or even a private one. Sexual assault victims cannot be denied treatment in either of these hospitals when they approach them as denial has lately been made a cognizable criminal offence punishable with appropriate jail terms or fines or both. As is known rape law has been made more stringent with zero tolerance for offenders and through these guidelines the aim is to ensure a sensitive and humane approach to such victims, their proper treatment apart from attending or treating doctors responsibility and duty in recording and documenting the medical aspects in order that such cases when they come up before the criminal justice system are not found wanting in the quality of evidence produced by the prosecution during trial.
Many a times it has been experienced in the past in such cases that medical evidence has not been recorded and documented in a proper fashion leading thereby to a poor conviction in rape cases.
The guidelines are to be brought to the attention of hospitals within the jurisdiction of each state and UT. It is incumbent on every government hospital in the country to treat rape victims free of charge, even post treatment will have to be gratis. Through this document I would like to avail the opportunity of appealing to every private hospital in the country to treat rape victims free of charge too as a part of their corporate social responsibility. In doing so they would be contributing to make India a better and safe place to live in. I’m sure these guidelines will be helpful to all the medical practitioners to deal with such cases in an informed manner.
The guidelines are being uploaded on the Ministry’s website for information of all concerned and with the request that suggestions for their further improvement may be sent to Director (H), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Nirman Bhawan, New Delhi.