On Tuesday, 16 May, the medical board of the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (PGIMS) decided to abort the five-month-old foetus of a 10-year-old rape victim.
The gruesome case involved a 10-year-old in Rohtak, Haryana who was allegedly repeatedly raped by her stepfather, who also happens to be her paternal uncle. The victim’s mother, after noticing her daughter’s deteriorating condition, took her to a hospital last week. Doctors at the PGIMS confirmed the pregnancy and abuse, adding that the victim was in a serious condition.
According to India Today, the accused, Suresh, 21, hails from Sitamarhi, Uttar Pradesh while the victim’s mother, who works as a domestic help, hails from Bihar and was widowed five years ago. She married the accused who repeatedly raped the victim while she was away.
The accused was arrested in 11 May. Lodged in Rohtak Jail, he is currently under judicial custody.
The mother’s plea
“The victim’s mother had requested the court to allow the abortion of the foetus. The court today directed the medical board to take appropriate decision keeping in mind the health of the victim. The board has now decided to abort the foetus,” SHO, Rohtak Women Police Station said.
The Haryana court left it to the medical board to decide whether or not to abort her foetus. The Board comprised of seven doctors including three gynaecologists.
As per Indian law, termination of pregnancy is not allowed after 20 weeks since it is not considered safe. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act does not allow for abortions beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy except in “exceptional” cases or cases where there is considered to be a credible threat to the mother’s life.
The medical board determined that, if the pregnancy were allowed to proceed further, she “will face psychological trauma; the pregnancy is not that advanced now … [therefore,] we have started the process during the day today.”
The incident in Rohtak comes to light only days after another horrendous incident of sexual violence in the same city. On 9 May, a decomposed and mutilated body of a 20-year old woman was found by the Haryana police in Rohtak. Stray dogs had bitten away her face and lower body which was discovered by a passerby in an empty plot in the city’s IMT area. The woman, a resident of Sonepat, had allegedly refused a marriage proposal of a jilted lover, Sumit, following which he reached her home a week later with his friends. She slapped him in a heated argument and as a revenge, the accused, with six of his friends, abducted her on her way to work and brutally gang-raped her. They smashed her face with a brick and run her over with their car to make the body unidentifiable.
Abuse of minors in India – troubling numbers
The statistics on abuse of minors in India are appalling.
- A child under 16 is raped every 155 minutes, a child under 10 every 13 hours.
- More than 10,000 children were raped in 2015.
- 240 million women living in India were married before they turned 18.
- 53.22% of children who participated in a government study reported some form of sexual abuse.
- 50% of abusers are known to the child or are “persons in trust and care-givers”.
- A UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2014 expressed alarm over the widespread sexual abuse of children and said one in three rape victims in India was a minor.
The Logical Indian take
Only days ago, the Supreme Court upheld the conviction and death penalty of Jyoti Singh’s rapists and murders. Additionally, the Bombay High Court upheld life imprisonment of 11 men accused in the gang rape of Bilkis Bano.
Despite the harsh punishment that rape invites, nothing stopped the seven men from brutally raping and mutilating the 20-year-old Rohtak woman.
Despite the harsh punishment that rape invites, nothing stopped the 21-year-old stepfather from repeatedly raping a 10-year-old girl.
These incidents are a gruesome reminder of our society’s perception of women. The fact is, we live in a rape culture. Open any newspaper on any given day and multiple reports of rape or sexual assault pour out. The sheer volume of these incidents points to its acceptance by a major section of our population – as if rape were a systemic problem in our country.
We live in a society that brands women as ‘shameless’ for marrying without family consent. We live in a society that perceives women as ‘immoral’ if she has sex before marriage. Misogyny runs so deep in us that even our abuses are sexist.
But the average rapist does not even understand the word misogyny. What he does understand is a ‘woman’s place in this world’.
For the Rohtak woman’s family, her place in this world was that of the breadwinner of the family. She was a good student who had passed her class 10 board exams but couldn’t continue her studies due to financial constraints. She had left her education to work in a pharmaceutical company where she made Rs 4000 a month.
But her dreams and aspirations, along with those of her family, were crushed the moment her rapist thought of her as nothing more than an object that cannot have a voice.
For the Rohtak girl’s mother, she has to confront a double trauma – that of knowing that her child was forced to confront the horror of rape, and that of being married to a pedophile who raped her own daughter.
The Logical Indian community opines that abortions post-20 weeks for such exceptional cases are a no-brainer. As for preventing such incidents from happening again, a strict implementation of the law is necessary. Additionally, though punishment is necessary, rape and any other form of sexual violence can only be effectively curbed with education and awareness from the grassroot level.