ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Testing Chastity, Evidencing Rape

Impact of Medical Jurisprudence on Rape Adjudication in India

Durba Mitra ( is with the South Asia Department of History, Fordham University, New York and Mrinal Satish ( is with the National Law University, New Delhi.

Protests following the 16 December 2012 gang rape in Delhi led to reform of rape laws in India. 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.

The authors would like to thank the anonymous referee for detailed comments on the draft paper.


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