A new set of guidelines have been recently issued by the Department of Health and Family Welfare for “rapid response by hospitals in case of medico legal case (MLC) examination of sexual assault victims’’. These instructions have come in the wake of the December 16 gang-rape case in which the preparedness at a city hospital was found allegedly somewhat lacking while handling the victim.

As per these new guidelines, sent by the Department to all the directors and medical superintendents of Delhi Government hospitals on January 28, when the victims of sexual assault are brought to the hospitals by the police or otherwise for MLC and treatment then as per the provisions of Section 164 A (2) of the Criminal Procedure Code it should be done “promptly and without delay’’.

“As the victims of sexual assault are traumatised and their physical condition and state of mind are unstable, handling of their case required sensitivity, empathy and compassion,’’ the order noted adding that “therefore, the examining doctor must throughout remain re-assuring, empathetic and sensitive to the victim and should also provide due privacy.’’

Further, the order has noted that in consonance with the directions of the Delhi High Court on performing MLC, “in order to provide privacy to the victim, a separate room should be identified by the director/medical superintendent and marked in all hospitals where the victims can be examined by the attending doctor’’.

Stating that “the room number should be known to the doctors in emergency duty’’, the guidelines further state that “the room should have proper furniture required for medical examination’’ and “the basic equipments, adequate stock of sexual assault forensic evidence (SAFE) kit etc., should be kept available in the room for collection of the forensic evidence.’’

The guidelines also lay down that “the hospital should also provide clothing to the victim in case the victim’s clothes are taken as evidence or action otherwise required fresh clothes to be given’’.

“The hospital should also provide toiletries to the victim after the MLC examination has been concluded,’’ the guidelines note.

For better preparedness to deal with such cases, it has been stated that the director or medical superintendent will arrange periodic training sessions to the doctors on the protocols and guidelines on the MLC examinations/reporting in case of sexual assault victims.’’

These officials are now also required to “organise sensitisation workshop for hospital staff, and medical and paramedical staff in collaboration with the Delhi Commission for Women.’’

Further, it has been stated that “in case where counselling of the victim is required, the same should be provided by the hospital’s own pool of doctors and if that is not available, then the Crisis Intervention Centre, which provides counsellor should be informed’’.

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