The Union Health Ministry has come out with a new set of guidelines in a bid to ensure that victims of sexual assaults are sensitively handled and also asked for thorough documentation of medical evidence to help better conviction rate in rape cases.
The fresh guidelines, protocols and standard operating procedures for care, treatment and rehabilitation of the surviours of sexual violence will implemented in all public and private health facilities across the nation. The new set of rules will formally be announced at a joint event organised by the Ministry and the World Health Organisation on March 19 in New Delhi.
The new protocols translate into practice the recommendations of the Justice J S Verma committee and conforms with the WHO’s guidelines for medico-legal services for victims of sexual violence.
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The Ministry took the initiative under the then secretary Keshav Desiraju and Human Rights Watch researcher Aruna Kashyap, advocate Vrinda Grover, Additional Solicitor General N Indira Jaisingh, NIMHANS psychiatrist Shekhar Sheshadri, forensic medicine expert Dr. Jagadeesh Reddy and Centre for Enquiry Into Health and Allied Themes coordinator Padma Deosthali were among the members of the committee set up to frame the guidelines.
Shakuntala D Gamlin, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, told The Indian Express, “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.” The guidelines have appealed to every private hospital for free treatment of rape victims as part of their corporate social responsibility.
The guidelines are essentially aimed at doctors and while they have especially been drawn up for rape cases, it can be used in other cases of sexual violence, Desiraju told The Indian Express.
Grover noted that the panel took cognisance of the lack of uniform protocols and gaps in provision of medico-legal care to survivors of sexual violence as per CrPC 164.
For the first time the guideline spells out do’s and don’ts — for instance, it is no longer relevant to check elasticity of the vagina and anus. The new protocol for medical examination is in line with the new law that has expanded the definition of rape, Grover added.