In a cruel, unjust and patriarchal world, being a woman, a child or a trans person is the worst fate one could possibly face.
For women like me, who are raised with a liberal mindset and who choose to work with the less fortunate people, this world is a sad, depressing and frustrating place. I routinely meet elderly people, children and trans persons that have been subjected to psychological, physical and sexual abuse. One of my tasks is to empower victims to become survivors. With few resources, shelters and rehabilitation centres for the abused, this is a rather overwhelming task.
The first step towards empowerment is knowledge. While some survivors cannot overcome victimhood, some are able to shun their past and move forward – depending on the extent of support, empathy, sensitivity and understanding they receive from their caregivers. For a mentally and physically traumatised crime victim, dealing with police, doctor, court staff and lawyer is tough.
The task of a medico-legal officers or examining doctors is crucial, as they connect the investigation to prosecution, with the court delivering a just verdict. They record documentable harm done to the victim’s body and mind.
A victim of abuse may go directly to the medico-legal office at the nearest government hospital or may choose to lodge a complaint at the nearest police station. A police officer will then take the victim to the medico-legal officer (MLO). This is the first step, empowering victims to take charge and emerge as a survivor.
The victim is entitled to receive a readable copy of the MLC as soon as examination and documentation are done. The documentation is not to be delayed at all.
The MLO notes the victim’s injuries, collects evidence such as swabs and samples of body fluids for laboratory analysis as well as utilise facilities such as ultrasound and X-rays, and refers the victims to consultants if needed. The victim’s clothes must also be sent for laboratory analysis.
Ideally, there is no fee for the medico-legal certificate (MLC), but some centres charge for investigations ordered and laboratory support, depending on available facilities and budget.
The victim is entitled to receive a readable copy of the MLC as soon as examination and documentation are done. The documentation is not to be delayed at all. However, the MLO’s job does not end with completing the MLC. He or she is duty bound to issue a final report on the basis of the laboratory and other reports, and, finally, appear in a court of law, when summoned, as a prosecution witness.
The MLC connects the dots — from crime to criminal — making it an important document. A complete, detailed medico-legal certificate is a medico-legal officer’s huge responsibility. But this is one job that is easier said than done.