We undertook a comprehensive study of the role of forensic medicine in the legal adjudication of rape cases in postcolonial India. We studied all publications on medical jurisprudence for India from the late nineteenth century until today in South Asia and analyzed the use of medical jurisprudence in rape cases reported in the high courts in India from 1952 until 2011. Rape has received significant attention in the last two years in international media, leading to the substantial reform of rape laws in India. We argue that for legal reforms to be effective, changes must be made to textbooks, medical protocol, and the use of medical evidence in rape cases. Our research resulted in the publication of our article, “Testing Chastity, Evidencing Rape:” in Economic and Political Weekly, a key peer-reviewed publication on India that brings together academics, researchers, and policy makers.
Read on for the article abstract.
Through a detailed analysis of the history of medical jurisprudence textbooks and their use in case law, this paper argues that these textbooks undermine legal reforms in India. It establishes that medical manuals promote the collection of prejudicial and legally irrelevant evidence and reinforce the notion that Indian women frequently bring false charges of rape. Courts regularly cite these textbooks as authority in rape cases, based on the perceived objectivity of medical science as a form of evidence. For legal reforms to be effective, this article argues that changes must be made to textbooks of medical jurisprudence, medical syllabi, and to protocols of medical examination and assessment of rape victims. Further, courts must be more critical in their use and acceptance of these medical manuals.