MHA approves study on swab collection
The Home ministry recently approved a first-of-its-kind study which is expected to give medical forensic personnel, who extract swabs from sexual assault survivors, more time in tracing the presence of sperms from the victims’ genitals. At present, these samples need to be collected within 48 hours of the incident as the chances of establishing the presence of male sperms weaken with the passage of time.

The ministry has given its nod for the research to examine the ‘Persistence of Spermatozoa and Non-Sperm Male Cells in Genital Tract of the Woman during Post Coital Period using Cytological and Fluorescence In-Situ Hybridization (FISH) Techniques’.

The research project is being carried out by National Institute of Criminology and Forensic Science (NICFS) in collaboration with gynecology departments of hospitals like Safdarjung, AIIMS, RML in Delhi, officials said. According to North Block officials, the study is expected “to raise the timeline for collection of genital tract swabs” and help in “reducing the chance of rendering injustice to the survivor and victims of sexual assault cases” which at times may lead to acquittal during the rape trial.

Recently, the Delhi High Court had allowed termination of a 24-week pregnancy of a minor rape victim following a report of a medical board set up by Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital.

The medical report of the 16-year-old girl stated that there was a significant risk to the girl in continuing with the pregnancy. The forensic experts from NICFS, while citing past cases, were of the view that swabs from sexual assault survivor need to be collected within 48 hours of the incident. “The chances of establishing presence of male sperms weakens with the passage of time,” explained an official who did not wish to be identified.

Last month, the Central cabinet approved the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which provides for enhancing the upper gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for special categories of women including rape survivors, victims of incest and other vulnerable women, like the differently abled and minors.

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