In the heart of Pilibhit, Uttar Pradesh, a deeply unsettling irony plagues the district women’s hospital. Built with the intent to provide specialized care for women, the hospital finds itself without women doctors, a stark contradiction that was recently brought to light by Times of India. Between June 1 and September 28, a shocking 70 out of 79 rape survivors, including 5 minors, bravely declined medical examinations by male gynaecologists at the very hospital meant to offer them solace.
The trauma of sexual assault is immeasurable, and survivors, already burdened with pain, felt violated anew at the prospect of being examined by male doctors. The absence of female doctors stemmed from the retirements of the hospital’s female medical superintendent, Dr. Anita Chaurasia, and gynaecologist, Dr. Kamla Mishra. The reins of the hospital are now in the hands of male medical superintendent, Dr. Rajesh Kumar, and male gynaecologist, Dr. KK Bhatt.
Legal experts have pointed out the alarming breach of the law and a survivor’s constitutional right to privacy. Madhu Ranjan Pandey, a senior lawyer from Prayagraj, highlighted that the Criminal Procedure Code expressly mandates examinations of rape survivors by female medical officers. The lack of this option is not just a violation; it’s an affront to justice.
Under Section 27 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, it’s crystal clear that a rape victim below 18 years must be examined solely by a lady doctor. Yet, in this hospital, this basic right is denied. Shraddha Saxena, a Supreme Court lawyer, emphasized the blatant disregard for constitutional rights, citing Articles 14 and 21.
The consequences are dire. A survivor’s refusal of medical examination due to a male doctor’s presence could potentially acquit the accused during the court trial, a horrifying prospect for those seeking justice. What’s equally concerning is the lack of awareness among survivors and their families regarding the legal implications of their refusal.
This issue demands immediate attention. Gender equality in medical care isn’t just about numbers; it’s about human dignity, empathy, and justice. It’s a plea for society to uphold fundamental rights, especially in the face of vulnerability. As the survivors’ cries for justice echo through the corridors of the hospital, urgent action is not just a necessity; it’s a moral obligation that society must fulfil.
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