Must prevent delays in MLC examination of rape survivors: Delhi Commission for Women

New Delhi: The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) has issued notices to the Department of Health and family welfare to ascertain the reasons for the problems being experienced by rape survivors in government hospitals. The commission observed that one-stop centres were not functional at many hospitals, delaying the medico-legal case (MLC) examination.

Delhi Commission for Women chairperson Swati Maliwal has given recommendations to the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Delhi Government, to curb delays in conducting MLC examinations of sexual assault survivors in government hospitals in Delhi. 

According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) ‘Crime in India’ Report 2022, Delhi is the most unsafe metropolitan city and crimes against women have risen by 15 percent in the country.

Every day, around six rapes are reported in the Capital.

Also Read: Kozhikode MCH sexual assault case: 5 hospital staff suspended for attempting to influence victim

Considering the alarming number of crimes as well as the extent of trauma faced by sexual assault survivors, the support systems for survivors must be urgently strengthened. However, the Commission has observed that the One Stop Centre in government hospitals are not functioning properly, leading to significant delays in conducting MLC examinations in government hospitals in Delhi.

In this regard, the Commission had issued notices to the Delhi Government to ascertain the reasons for the problems being experienced by sexual assault survivors in government hospitals.

Serious lacunae were identified in this process. It was observed that certain hospitals like Guru Gobind Singh Hospital, Swami Dayanand Hospital and Hedgewar Hospital do not have One Stop Centres (OSC).

The commission has recommended that OSC be set up in each of these hospitals urgently.

It was ascertained that there were five stages wherein delay was experienced by the survivors during their MLC.

These were at the emergency room, while conducting UPT test of the survivor while waiting for the gynecologist while sealing samples and during the documentation process.

For instance, at Aruna Asaf Ali Hospital the UPT test is not being done inside the OSC but at a different floor or wing of the hospital. Further, Kalawati Hospital does not store UPT test kits, and as a result, the survivor is forced to go to Lady Harding Hospital (which is a kilometer away) for the UPT test and then return to Kalawati for her MLC.

The Commission has recommended that survivors should be allowed to approach OSC directly without waiting at the Emergency Room, there should be attached washrooms at the OSCs and drinking water to reduce delay in UPT tests, rape survivors are attended to by gynecologists without any delay, senior staff should seal samples during the MLC process itself inside the OSC and instructions should given to doctors to speed up the documentation process.

It was also observed that certain doctors and staff in hospitals like Hedgewar and Dadadev Hospital behave rudely with survivors and give lectures expressing their prejudices and biases.

At RML Hospital, doctors refuse to give survivors a copy of their MLC report and also make the survivors recount their ordeal multiple times. The Health Department has been told to ensure that doctors and staff behave politely with survivors and operate without any bias. Also, many OSCs are not functional round the clock and lack basic infrastructure and facilities like drinking water facility and attached bathroom.

This problem is particularly severe in Safdarjung Hospital, Hedgewar Hospital and Hindu Rao Hospital. Finally, the Commission was disturbed to find that male minor children’s MLC is not being done in the OSC or at a designated place. It was recommended that they should also be allotted similar resources as female minors and their MLC must be done in a designated place at all hospitals which has basic provisions, preferably at the One Stop Centre.

In its comprehensive report, the Commission has addressed all these issues and recommended that the Department of Health and Family Welfare strengthens its systems so that rape survivors are given the highest priority and attended to by gynecologists without any delay. The Health Department has been asked to provide an Action Taken Report on the matter within 30 days.

Also Read: Delhi HC frames guidelines for medical examination of rape victims where pregnancy exceeds 24 weeks

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