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India’s two finger test after rape violates women and should be eliminated from medical practice

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 16 May 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g3336
  1. Nisreen Khambati, medical student, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, Building 85, Life Sciences Building, Highfield Campus, Southampton, SO17 1BJ, England
  1. nk13g09{at}

A doctor inserting two fingers into the vagina to assess a woman’s sexual behaviour—and therefore whether she invited assault—is unscientific, unethical, and unhelpful, writes Nisreen Khambati. New national guidelines outlawing the test should be implemented quickly throughout India’s health facilities

The brutal gang rape of a student in Delhi in December 2012 triggered international outrage and catalysed progressive legal amendments in India, including harsher punishments for perpetrators and a wider definition of sexual assault.1 However, necessary changes to the health system have been slower.2 Despite doctors’ responsibility to provide medical and psychological help, some in India have been criticised for providing insensitive care to victims of rape.3 In particular, attention has focused on the “two finger test,” a disturbing practice conducted by some doctors during medical examinations.

This test, which originated in the 18th century, involves examining the hymen and the laxity of the vagina to ascertain information about the victim’s sexual history.4 Insertion of one finger into the vagina with difficulty is interpreted as meaning that the victim was a virgin, whereas easy insertion of two fingers suggests that she is “habituated to sexual intercourse.”5 Clearly, this test has no scientific value; …

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