mid-day editorial: Sexual abuse survivors need justice now

For the 15-year-old girl who was raped repeatedly and threatened into silence by her former boyfriend and his mother, what matters most is finding justice and receiving sensitive care from the authorities. However, so far, she has found neither. A whole week after it came to light that she was three months pregnant, not only have the doctors failed to carry out her wishes for a Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP), but they have not even carried out the essential DNA test that could prove the charges against the accused.

The doctors had a five-day window in which they could have met the minor’s wishes before she was diagnosed with chicken pox. Now it could take a couple of weeks before she is well enough to undergo an MTP — a delay that could cost her heavily, perhaps even make it impossible to terminate the pregnancy.

It is clear that despite the growing awareness about sexual abuse and the importance of providing sensitive and timely attention to the survivors — particularly minors — the authorities seem sorely lacking on this point. There have been instances of delays in registering the case, or archaic and humiliating medical tests being conducted on survivors. For victims, the ramifications are manifold — not only is the investigation hampered, running their chances for justice, but they are put through further emotional and mental trauma.

What we need is a strict protocol that must be followed to provide relief to survivors — and strict consequences for officials who fail to comply. Hospitals and police must conduct regular sensitisation programmes for staff. Unnecessary delays must not be tolerated. Not only does this ruin the golden window for investigation, it also holds the survivors back from beginning the long and painful process of leaving the crime behind them.

Above all, there should be particular focus on obeying the wishes of a rape survivor and making every effort to ensure that they are given the right care, whether that entails medical treatment, emotional support, or timely MTP.

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