In a proud moment for MCGM and CEHAT, Dr Meena Savjani of Rajawadi Hospital, Mumbai, was awarded the Dignity Award in the ‘Medical Service Provider’ category for her untiring efforts over the years towards ensuring comprehensive and gender-sensitive care for survivors of sexual violence. As the Medical Officer of the hospital, Dr Savjani mentored doctors in gender-sensitive care across hospitals in India. She engaged with CWC members, police, and even the Judiciary for this cause; she relentlessly discussed with them the scope and limitations of collecting forensic evidence, and brought back the focus to the care provided to sexual violence survivors.
This honour was conferred upon her by the Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan and Jan Sahas, who are organizers of the Dignity March to End Sexual Violence against Women and Children – a 10,000 kilometre national march spanning 200 districts of 24 states/union territories in India which began from Mumbai on 20th December, 2018 and culminated in Delhi on 22nd February, 2019. This march is a platform for survivors to tell their stories in their own voice, and to present their own narratives. It represents a call to end the culture of shame and fear among survivors, to encourage people to speak up, and demand zero tolerance for sexual violence in our society. It aims to hold the society and the state accountable towards ensuring punitive action against the perpetrator through effective implementation of legal guidelines, and ensuring rehabilitation facilities for survivors.
In Dr Savjani’s words:
When I joined Rajwadi Hospital, I was given the charge of the gyanecology department. We receive a lot of cases for medical examination of sexual violence in the department. My early exposure to gender-sensitive care was through CEHAT, from whom I received training and handholding. I realized that the practice for survivors of rape needs to change; the approach of doctors and nurses must change so that survivors can have confidence in them.
As in-charge, I have trained teams from my hospital to respond to survivors of sexual violence. It is not easy as doctors are resistant; they do not want to change their practices, but I slowly was able to facilitate a change. We realized that though we were doing good work in providing treatment to survivors, speaking to them sensitively, and so on, when we were called to courts, our experiences were not very good . Courts would force us to talk on the status of the survivor’s hymen and habituation to sex. I would refuse, and trained my doctors to refuse the same too. Slowly, CWCs as well as public prosecutors started calling me for training, as they wanted to understand the scope and limitations of medical evidence.
I retired a week ago, but I am glad that the positive practices continue, and are now an institutional policy integrated into the hospital services.
Apart from ‘Medical Service Provider’, other categories in which the Dignity Award is being conferred is:
Dr. Prajakta Goswami shall be collecting the award on behalf of Dr Meena Savjani.