SHC has again issued notices on a petition seeking the abolition of virginity tests in rape cases.

The Sindh High Court (SHC) has again issued notices to the home department, the Sindh Health Care Commission (SHCC) and the health department among others on a petition seeking the abolition of virginity tests in rape cases.

Natasha Ali and other petitioners said that medico-legal officers (MLOs) perform hymen tests and two-finger tests as part of the medical evaluation of sexual assault victims, adding that such tests are unreliable, unnecessary and without any scientific basis.

They said the people accused of having committed rape are mostly acquitted either for want of evidence or on unsubstantiated suggestions of the victims being promiscuous or immoral in conduct, adding that these standards defy the constitutional liberties vesting in and with all citizens, including victims of sexual assaults.

They also said that other nations comprising the subcontinent have outlawed such practices as being unlawful and in violation of basic human rights, adding that there is a need for judicial intervention premised on similar standards.

The petitioners said the government has made amendments in the criminal procedure law making DNA tests in sexual assault cases mandatory, adding that the superior courts have also ordered that DNA tests be conducted in all rape cases.

They said that despite the significance of the courts’ decision in highlighting the role of DNA evidence, a large-scale shift among investigating officers and their attitude towards the collection of DNA evidence in all sexual offences is yet to be observed. It has been reported in the media that Sindh is ill-equipped as regards the availability of qualified MLOs, and this insufficiency has demonstrated further dwindling numbers in so far as female MLOs are concerned, they added.

They also said that there are reportedly only four female MLOs in the entire Karachi, adding that the health department is required to enforce in the larger public interest. They requested the court to direct the home and health departments to stop two-finger virginity tests in rape cases, and to ensure the implementation of DNA tests and the standard operating procedures germane to good medical practice as regards medical examinations, investigations and criminal prosecution of allegations in sexual assaults cases.

They also sought the induction of qualified female MLOs duly accredited with modern medical practices. The SHC’s division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar directed the provincial law officer, the home and health departments, the SHCC and others to file their comments on the petition within two weeks.

PSM retired employees

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday directed the federal government to deposit the outstanding Rs11.680 billion post-retirement benefits of the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) employees by September 30.

The direction came on petitions filed by Syed Umar Baqi and 850 other PSM workers who had moved the SHC against the non-payment of their gratuities, leaves encashment and provident funds since May 2013.

PSM Chief Executive Officer Shujah Hasan submitted a compliance report and stated that the post-retirement benefits of the petitioners had been deposited before the Nazir of the court in compliance with the court order. The Nazir also confirmed that an amount of Rs11.41 billion had been received in compliance with the May 18 order of the high court.

To a court query about the post-retirement benefits of all such retired employees of PSM who had not approached the court and allotment of their outstanding dues, the PSM CEO submitted that the total amount payable to such retired employees was Rs11.680 billion.

A division bench of the SHC headed by Justice Nadeem Akhtar directed the federal government to deposit the admitted amount of Rs11.680 billion with the Nazir of the court by September 30.

The article is originally published at The News.