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February 15, 2004 

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Medical test of rape victims More female doctors needed

Kamrun Naher

The 10-year-old girl, whose name is withheld for protection, was going to school when a young man whisked her off to an under-construction building and raped her there. She was left at the darkened building until a woman passing by the area heard her groan in pain and called help for her.

At hospital doctors wanted to conduct a medical examination on the girl to determine whether she was raped. They faced a big problem: the girl's mother vehemently objected to the medical tests by male doctors. She was prepared to allow the tests only by female doctors. It took several days and lots of persuasion by lawyers, police investigators and relatives before the mother agreed to the medical tests by male doctors.

Legal proceeding in rape cases' progresses is extremely slow in Bangladesh. One of the several key reasons for the delayed process is the reluctance of women victims against being tested by male doctors. Female doctors are terribly in short supply to perform the job.

According to Naripakho, a women rights group, 23 of 29 rape victims on which it conducted a survey refused to be tested by men. Medical test is a must before any legal proceeding can be started against an attacker. The test requires the victim to lie on a table completely naked. Since the rape victims in Bangladesh are all women they feel shy and some believes it goes against religious practices to undress before male doctors.

Before the test the victim or her relatives are required to sign an approval to undergo the examination by the doctor. The finding of the test serves as evidence. So, the test is very crucial in a rape trial.

Consider the embarrassment a young rape victim has suffered when a male doctor did the test. ``When the doctor asked me to undress I felt like dying in shame," recalls the girl about the test by a male doctor. "But then I was determined to see my tormentor punished. So, I agreed to go through the unwelcome test."

Not that Bangladesh has a scarcity of female doctors. Female doctors feel discouraged to do the forensic job to avoid the hassle of standing as witness in rape cases. In Bangladesh, such cases drag for years and the witnesses are to appear in court on their own expenses. Trial dates change a lot causing more problems to the witnesses. In addition, there are risks of attacks and reprisals by the accused.

The trial hassle is a key factor that deters female doctors from joining the forensic job. Explains Prof. Mozaherul Huq, Director at Institute of Public Health: "In our country concerned doctors are to appear in court as witnesses. In many other countries, the doctors need not to go to court. They only send the reports to court." Appearing in court is a hassle and women want to avoid it, he says. Some suggests that nurses or midwives can be trained to do the forensic tests of rape victims.

All these problems can be solved now that the One-Stop-Crisis Center has set up a DNA lab with Danish financial help. DNA tests will be an important weapon in the fight to identify the rapists. DNA tests can match the attackers' hair, saliva, nail, colour of hair and eyes. The possessor of the semen can be identified long after the incident.

Source: News Network.


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