Indian women 'forced into gynaecological tests' to prove work fitness

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Entrance to the Surat Municipal Institute of Medical Education and Research
Image caption,
The women say they were forced to stand naked in groups during the tests at Surat's state-run hospital

Indian authorities are investigating claims that dozens of women were forced to have gynaecological tests to prove their fitness for work.

The women, trainee government clerks in the city of Surat, in Gujarat, say they were also checked for pregnancy.

An official report on the alleged incident is expected within 15 days.

It comes days after college students living in a Gujarat hostel said they were forced to remove their underwear to prove they were not menstruating.

The latest complaint was lodged on Thursday by an employee union of the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC), a civic body where the group of about 100 women worked.

According to the union, the incident took place during physical tests at a government-run hospital, the Surat Municipal Institute of Medical Education and Research (SMIMER). The tests are mandatory for anyone who wants to continue working after their three-year probation.

Media caption,

Using comics to combat India's menstruation taboos

The women allege that they were forced to stand naked in a room together, in groups of 10, during the invasive "finger tests", which were conducted by female doctors.

They added that the room's door was not properly closed and a curtain was "the only thing blocking the view from the outside".

Their union said it was not opposed to the tests, but rather the "highly deplorable" methods used by the hospital.

Image caption,
Hospital dean Vandana Desai said the medical facility hadn't received 'a single complaint' about the tests until this week

"I have never heard such a test on women employees anywhere else," said union head Ahmed Shaikh in an interview with the Times of India newspaper. "If they had any doubt about an employee's health, they should have got tests in an acceptable manner."

In an interview with the BBC's Gujarati Service, hospital dean Vandana Desai said that, to date, SMIMER had carried out nearly 4,000 physical tests without "a single complaint".

"In the fitness test, we will follow all the rules so there is no doubt about it," she added.

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An unnamed government employee told the Times of India that she took the fitness test around 20 years ago, but it did not involve any gynaecological procedures at the time.

Surat's Municipal Commissioner Banchhanidhi Pani has formed a committee to investigate the alleged incident and submit a report.

The city's mayor, Jagdish Patel, told PTI news agency that the issue was "very serious".

"We will take strict action against the culprits if the allegations levelled by the women staffers are found to be true," he added.