'Virginity Test Sexist, Unconstitutional': Delhi HC in Sister Abhaya Case

'Virginity Test Sexist, Unconstitutional': Delhi HC in Sister Abhaya Case

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday ruled that conducting virginity test on a woman accused is “sexist and is in violation of human right to dignity”.

Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma, in a significant judgment, said, “the virginity test conducted on a woman detainee, accused under investigation, or in custody, whether judicial or police, is declared unconstitutional and in violation of Article 21 of the Constitution”.

The ruling came on a 14-year-old petition filed by Sister Sephy, one of the two convicts in the Sister Abhaya murder case.

Advocate Romy Chacko, representing Sister Sephy, contended that she was “forcefully" subjected to undergo virginity test by the Central Bureau of Investigation on November 25, 2008, against her consent.

Mr. Chacko said the virginity test was conducted by the investigating agency under the pretext of an investigation to substantiate their case.

“Most shockingly, in the present case the virginity test was used to determine the truth of the accusation of murder against the petitioner (Sister Sephy),” the High Court remarked.

“Undoubtedly, the test in itself is extremely traumatic for a victim of sexual assault as well as upon any other women in custody and is bound to have devastating effect on the psychological as well as physical health of the person,” it said.

“Strangely, though the word “virginity” may not have a definite scientific and medical definition, it has become a mark of purity of a woman,” the judge commented.

On the issue of taking action against the officials of the CBI, the High Court said during that period guidelines of the Supreme Court or otherwise to have declared such tests to be unconstitutional were not present.

The question regarding grant of compensation or as to whether custodial torture had been caused to Sister Sephy or not has to be decided by National Human Rights Commission, the High Court added.

“Right to personal liberty of an accused gets suspended the moment one is arrested as the same might be necessary for the State security. However, the right to dignity is not suspended or waived even of an accused, undertrial or a convict,” Justice Sharma said.

Source: The Hindu

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