Last Friday, the Supreme Court of India refused to allow an abortion for a 10-year-old girl who is at least 28 weeks’ pregnant. The girl was raped by her uncle who is now in police custody. Indian law generally forbids abortions after the 20th week, though the courts may approve exceptions.
After reviewing the doctors’ findings, which were not made public, the court ruled that an abortion at this stage would not be in the girl’s interest.
However, many activists have criticized this decision and have called for the relaxation of 20-week limit. They argue that abortion procedures are much safer today than when the law was enacted more than 40 years ago, eroding the rationale for the 20-week rule.
Education on anti-harassment laws must be imparted to men through media and other forums. Women should also be trained to defend themselves in the case of an assault by men
The latest case was first heard this month by a court in Chandigarh, which refused to allow an abortion, according to Mr. Srivastava’s petition to the Supreme Court.
The fate of the little girl
The 10-year-old rape survivor who will soon give birth, since the Supreme Court has dismissed a plea to allow her to terminate her 32-week pregnancy may need years of sustained counseling centered on respect, rehabilitation and resilience. Psychologists and child care experts say that these three Rs’ are necessary to help the child, raped by her uncle and just a few weeks away from full-term pregnancy to cope with the trauma of the assault as well as the childhood pregnancy.
Alarming statistics of rape in India
At least 34,651 cases of rape were reported across India in 2015 according to statistics released by the country’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
Women are thought to be scared to report a crime due to the mostly male police force and due to a fear of reprisal, or being judged to have provoked the attack
The figures from 2015 exhibit that victims ranged from female children younger than six years old to women over 60 years, with those aged between 18 and 30 reporting the largest number of rape attacks – totaling almost 17,000.
Victims knew their alleged rapists in 33,098 of the 34,651 reported rape cases, or 95.5 percent, according to the figures. However, experts believe that these figures are not completely accurate and well below the actual figures as a majority of cases go unreported due to due to the mostly male police force and due to a fear of reprisal, or being judged to have provoked the attack.
(Image courtesy Al-Jazeera)
(Image courtesy indpaedia.com)
Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971
In India, under the MTP Act, abortion is a qualified right. An abortion can’t be performed based solely on a woman’s request. And it can only be performed by a registered medical practitioner before 12 weeks of pregnancy. In case the woman had been pregnant for more than 12 weeks but for less than 20 weeks the opinions of two medical practitioners are required.
However, the underlying condition remains: an abortion is permitted only if continuing the pregnancy poses a ‘substantial risk’ to the woman’s life or to her ‘physical or mental health’. Alternatively, if the child that is yet to be born faces similar substantial risk – in that it would suffer from ‘physical or mental abnormalities’ or may be ‘seriously handicapped’ – an abortion may be allowed.
The premise of keeping the window for abortion open only until 20 weeks is that, generally, abnormalities can be detected by that time
In the case of pregnancies caused by rape, or a failure of birth control (for married women), the risk to their mental health is admissible grounds for abortion. The premise of keeping the window for abortion open only until 20 weeks is that, generally, abnormalities can be detected by that time. However, some rare congenital diseases can be detected only after 20 weeks; this can potentially put both the lives of the mother and the child at risk.
Many in India are now calling for the amendment in this Act in order to facilitate abortions beyond the time period prescribed under this Act.
Why are sex determination ultrasounds considered illegal in India?
Two laws that prohibit the sex selection of a fetus in India are the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 (MTP), as amended in 2002, and the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994 (PNDT), as amended in 2002. The former Act prohibits abortion except only in certain qualified situations, while the latter prohibits the sex selection of a fetus with a view towards aborting it.
This was done to curb the increasing number of abortions in India after parents realized that the child in the womb of the mother was a girl.
After reviewing the doctors’ findings, which were not made public, the court ruled that an abortion at this stage would not be in the girl’s interest
All women police in India to tackle sexual violence and harassment
In the Indian city of Jaipur, an all women police force have been formed which patrol the streets on foot to protect women and let them know that help is at hand. The police tell women that they can call or even WhatsApp for help. Women are thought to be scared to report a crime due to the mostly male police force and due to a fear of reprisal, or being judged to have provoked the attack.
This step will definitely help women overcome this hurdle and report the case to women police. However, much more needs to be done to overcome this menace which has plagued the Indian society at large. Education on anti-harassment laws must be imparted to men through media and other forums. Women should also be trained to defend themselves in the case of an assault by men.
Plight of women in India
The case of 10-year-old girl who has been raped by her own uncle points towards an alarming trend in the Indian society. The stats provided by the Indian government and NGO’s operating inside India are not accurate since most of the cases go unreported due to societal taboos and pseudo moral principles.
In the Population Census of 2011, it was revealed that the population ratio in India 2011 is 940 females per 1000 of males. The major cause of the decrease of the female birth ratio in India is considered to be the violent treatments meted out to the girl child at the time of the birth. The Sex Ratio in India was almost normal during the phase of the years of independence, but thereafter it started showing gradual signs of decrease.
Every year, thousands of Indian women become victims of domestic abuse, bride burning, child marriage, female infanticide, kidnapping, prostitution, sex trafficking and witch accusations. The Indian government has made strides to change it but has so far failed to end the miseries of millions of women who face exploitation, harassment, discrimination and domestic and sexual abuse.