Indian court allows 10-year-old rape victim to have an abortion

Girl had crossed 20-week legal limit after which terminations are usually only allowed if there is danger to life of mother or baby

A 10-year-old girl who was raped will be allowed to have an abortion even though she has crossed the 20-week limit for terminations in India, police in the country said on Wednesday.

The child has said she was repeatedly raped by her stepfather, who has since been arrested.

Her case only came to light last week, by which time she had crossed the 20-week legal limit after which terminations are only allowed where there is a danger to the life of the mother or the baby.

“The court had asked the medical board to take a call and doctors have decided to go ahead with the abortion,” Garima Devi, the police investigation officer assigned to the case, told AFP.

“The board has not said when they are planning it (abortion) but it will be any time soon.”

In recent months India’s top court has received a number of petitions from women – including rape survivors and trafficking victims – seeking abortions where pregnancies had gone beyond 20 weeks.

Activists say the restriction should be extended to 24 weeks as victims of rape are often late to report their pregnancies.

The Indian Express said the victim’s mother wanted the accused to be set free as he had apologised and that she had other children to take care of.

“The girl’s life is destroyed but what will happen to my other children? I need to think about their future too,” the daily quoted the mother as saying from a hospital in Rohtak, a district in northern Haryana state.

India has a gruesome record on rape, with the capital New Delhi alone registering 2,199 rape cases in 2015 – an average of six a day.

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.

Abortion sans wife’s consent a grave crime; pre-arrest bail denied to man

Abortion without the wife’s consent is a heinous crime, the Bombay high court has held while refusing the pre-arrest bail to a Wadala resident. Irshad Haq faces charges of dowry harassment and conspiring with a doctor and a nurse to get his wife’s pregnancy medically terminated without her consent.“It is a heinous offence. The husband, doctor and nurse have connived to abort the foetus of the woman without her consent and by fabricating the records,“ said Justice Sadhana Jadhav. The court pointed out that Irshad himself had taken his wife to the hospital. “Taking into consideration the material collected in the course of the investigation and upon perusal of the record, this court is of the opinion that the applicant does not deserve to be enlarged on bail,“ added the judge.

Irshad has been charged for the offence of causing miscarriage without the woman’s consent under Section 313 of the Indian Penal Code. If convicted, the maximum punishment prescribed for the offence is life imprisonment. He has also been booked for offences of dowry harassment, assault, criminal breach of trust and intimidation.

Additional public prosecutor M G Patil informed the court that while a nurse has been held, another co-accused, Dr Gazi Rehman, is yet to be arrested. Irshad had married the victim in 2010. In her complaint, the wife said that he would regularly demand that she fetch money from her parents.In November 2016, she got pregnant and Irshad demanded that she drop the baby . On December 17, 2017, he allegedly kicked her, assaulted her with a belt and threatened her that if she did not go in for an abortion, he would divor ce her. He then took her to ti Clinic where she was gi Jyoti Clinic where she was gi ven a tablet by the nurse. When she suffered from excessive bleeding, she called her brother, who took her to Sion hospital.She then lodged an FIR against her husband at Wadala TT police station. Irshad claimed he was falsely implicated in the case and his wife had consented to the abortion. The judge perused the hospital papers and pointed out that his wife had consented to admitting herself to the hospital and not the abortion. In her statement, the nurse told the police that Dr Gazi had allegedly accepted Rs 14,000 for the abortion and asked her to throw the foetus in a canal.

“It is clear that it is not a consent for abortion. It is a consent for admission. The records have been fabricated to show that the patient was discharged against medical advice although she had undergone abortion in the said hospital in the intervening night,“ said the judge, while dismissing Irshard’s application.

SC allows Mumbai woman to abort 24-week foetus with no kidneys

According to PTI, the apex court relied on Mumbai’s KEM Hospital medical board report saying foetus suffers from disorders and continuation of pregnancy would endanger mother’s life.

kem hospital, supreme court order, sc abortion ruling, mumbai hospital, kem hospital abortion case, king edward memorial hospitalThe Supreme Court. (File Photo)The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed a Mumbai woman to abort her 24-week-old foetus that had no kidneys and would most likely die after birth. According to PTI, the apex court relied on Mumbai’s KEM Hospital medical board report stating that the foetus suffered from disorders and continuation of pregnancy would endanger mother’s life. This is the second case this year in which the Supreme Court has intervened to allow an exception under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971.

Earlier on Monday, KEM Hospital had submitted its report to the apex court regarding the woman’s case. The court had asked the hospital to give its opinion on the case after diagnosing the petitioner and her foetus.

According to the woman’s petition, she was in her 21st week of pregnancy when the foetal growth anomaly termed as bilateral renal agenesis was diagnosed.The condition means absence or failure of both kidneys in body. This also causes deficiency in amniotic fluid that can cause further malformations in a baby. According to doctors, a baby with this anomaly cannot survive for more than four hours after birth.

Earlier, a 22-year-old Thane woman was allowed to undergo abortion after the Supreme Court observed that the foetus suffered from anencephaly, a life threatening condition in which the skull is not fully developed.

India – Family Planning is Certainly Not ‘Women’s Business’

NEW DELHI: Talking about family planning has never been easy. Political parties have for too long shied away from the subject, not wanting to earn the ire of their vote banks. The hangover of the ‘nasbandi’ days continues with vasectomy being seen more as an ill than panacea. Myths and misconceptions thrive and the only way of keeping a check on the population has been by holding sterilisation camps for women and doling out condoms by way of contraceptive choices.

So when the Supreme Court recently gave a historic verdict to ensure sterilisation procedures are conducted in accordance with legal norms, medical procedures and provisions of the manuals, and that those suffering from failure or complications are adequately compensated, it finally stirred up a larger conversation on planning families and women’s reproductive rights.

As someone with decades of activism behind her, Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director, Population Foundation of India (PFI), which has been at the forefront of policy, advocacy, and research on population, believes that the landmark judgment has come at the right time and will be vital in paving the way for a more vigorous, inclusive discussion on advancing sexual and reproductive rights of women and men – with, of course, “the media as a powerful ally”. An interview.

Q: Why is the recent Supreme Court (SC) judgment significant and what does it mean for the family planning programme in India?

A: The judgment has taken the conversation on family planning and women’s rights forward, moving from the narrow prism of numbers to prioritise issues of women’s reproductive health and rights. The verdict underlines the importance of quality of care in provision of family planning services with special reference to sterilisation. It calls for stopping the practice of holding sterilisation camps within a period of three years. It has freed state governments from pushing family planning targets, putting a stop to forced/non-consensual sterilisations. The judgment also recommends improving implementation of family planning programmes by ensuring easy access to empanelled doctors, making information available in local languages and ensuring informed consent of patients.

Q: Why is there is a need to reposition family planning and how should this be done?

A: A major focus of the national programme so far has been on promoting family planning. This has to change, given that the largest group of young people in Indian history is currently in their reproductive years. Even countries like Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal offer at least six contraceptive choices whereas in India we have only female sterlisation at 74.4 per cent followed by condoms at 11.4 per cent, the pill at 7.5 per cent and IUD (Intra Uterine Device) at 3.7 per cent. Not only must we provide more options to the youth but also put as much emphasis on repositioning family planning and maternal and child health policies and programmes within the women’s empowerment and human rights framework. From promoting ‘population control’ approaches as a solution to stabilise population, we must look at providing services.

Q: Deep rooted myths surround the issue of family planning, including the notion that certain religions want their women to be baby producing machines.

A: It is unfortunate that women’s bodies and their fertility become objects that fuel fires of communalisation. Improvement in fertility/decline in population is dependent on education, income and employment opportunities and not on religion. Declining trend in population growth is secular. The sex ratio among Muslims as per Census 2011 stands at 951 females for every 1000 men which is significantly better than 939 among Hindus. Further, it shows marked improvement from 936 in 2001 to 951 in 2011 among Muslims whereas for Hindus it shows marginal improvement from 931 in 2001 to 939 in 2011. It is a proven fact that female education, employment opportunities and access to bigger basket of contraceptive choices help women make the right choice. Contrary to popular belief, women, across the board, want a smaller family.

Q: In the context of family planning, what have been the biggest missed opportunities post-Independence?

A: Not addressing the unmet need and robbing millions of women the choices for contraception is a huge missed opportunity. This has forced young women to opt for abortions, many of them unsafe. In the absence of counselling and open discussion, they are using emergency contraceptive pills as a family planning method. According to national data, the unmet need for family planning is a staggering 32 million. More than six lakh abortions were recorded in 2013-14, majority of which resulted from lack of access to contraceptives. The focus clearly must be on creating awareness, making services available, expanding the basket of choices, ensuring quality of care and increasing family planning budgets.

Q: If awareness building is a key aspect, how do you think media can contribute to mobilising support and initiating sustained action to enhance reproductive and sexual rights of women?

A: Media is a vital ally and partner to all of us working to improve access to sexual and reproductive health rights for youth and adolescents. It plays a crucial role in bringing issues around family planning to the attention of policy-makers and influencers. However, so far, coverage around stories on family planning remains negligible. PFI recently conducted a media consultation in Delhi in an attempt to initiate a robust debate on family planning, women’s health and reproductive rights. We wish to see family planning become part of the mainstream media narrative. PFI has worked with media to generate evidence-based coverage on family planning and reproductive health. Our behaviour change communication initiative, Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon, addresses social determinants of health and has deep outreach and impact. Media can help in positioning family planning not as a women’s issue or men’s issue but as a people’s issue. Highlighting negative events through sensational headlines and photos that shock and awe are important but so is following up with those stories and tracking what happened to those featured in them. This would help put pressure on the government and related agencies to act and take responsibility. Media can also contribute greatly to the initiation of dialogue and debate around positive decisions that have the potential to impact demographic trends and quality of life. So far, there has, in fact, been a narrative to demonise family planning. It is time to create champions and join hands in ensuring women are educated, men and boys are part of the discussion and women’s sexual and reproductive rights are protected.

Q: Why is involving men so important in something traditionally viewed as “women’s business”?

A: Our experience has been that if you reach out to men, they will be responsive. They treat women’s reproductive health as a “woman’s issue” because that’s the belief that has been perpetuated widely. It is necessary to involve them in family planning. There should be an emphasis on changing mindsets and stereotypes so as to enable women to take decisions regarding their own health and increasing spousal communication. There remain myths and misconceptions around vasectomy, including baseless speculation on loss of virility. Men must be encouraged to accept vasectomy as a family planning method. At the same time, male engagement should not be confined to vasectomy alone but extend to their involvement in decisions related to the education of their daughters, choosing the best contraception available, spacing and age of pregnancy.

Q: What are the strategies for the future?

A: We need to be vigilant and monitor on-ground implementation of the SC directives. Having said that, we need to continue supporting the government and reviewing adherence to quality guidelines in implementing the injectable roll-out and generating evidence through research on contraceptive options of Progestin Only Pill and Centchroman. This will enhance the basket of contraceptive choices for women and young people.

(Women’s Feature Service)

Lancet- Rules push women to unsafe abortion options

Representative imageRepresentative image
MUMBAI: A paper published in Lancet medical journal last May had shown that criminalizing abortion does not prevent it but rather pushes women towards unsafe options. Several studies have estimated that of 6.5 million abortions that take place in India annually, a staggering 57% could be unsafe.

The highlight of the paper, based on figures from the US-based Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organisation (WHO), was that abortion rates in developed countries fell significantly from 46 per 1,000 in 1990-94 to 27 in 2010-14. Developing nations, however, only registered a 2-point fall. Some 25% of 56.3 million pregnancies ended in abortion in 2010-14.

Interestingly, the study also showed that abortion rates were not very different in countries where it was completely illegal (37 per 1,000 women) to where it was available on request (34), suggesting that criminalizing abortions was detrimental to women’s health. Globally, 73% of abortions were obtained by married women compared with 27% by unmarried women in 2010-14.

“Around 8% of maternal deaths in India are attributable to unsafe abortions. There are two main reasons behind unsafe abortions in the country— one is the MTP law itself that has a stringent cut-off time and the another is lack of qualified obstetricians and gynaecologists in rural parts of the country,” said Dr Vinoj Manning, country director of Ipas, a non-profit body that works towards women’s reproductive rights.

In 1971, when the MTP Act was passed, medically induced abortions were unheard of. In this non-surgical approach, a pill or an injection is used to induce labour and deliver the foetus. “Today, it is the most preferred and the safest method, yet women have to go to quacks because the law itself is a hurdle. No qualified gynaecologist would perform an abortion after 20 weeks even if the reasons are compelling,” said a senior gynaecologist from a public hospital. A woman in India dies every two hours due to unsafe abortions. The doctor said it only pointed towards a grave unmet need for contraception and access to safe abortion.

The medical fraternity believes there is an urgent need to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, which restricts a woman from terminating pregnancy after 20 weeks. The proposed law that changes this and allows women the right to abort till 24 weeks in exceptional situations is awaiting Parliament’s approval for nearly two years.

Gynaecologist Dr Nikhil Datar said morbidities related to unsafe abortions is a serious area that is seldom talked about. Gynaecologist Dr Sangeeta Pikale said unsafe abortions could be curbed by picking foetal anomalies within the 20-week deadline if women undergo tests on time, in good centres.

Contraceptive Cruelty: How patriarchy determines birth control use in India

Many women are made to believe that they must shoulder the responsibility of contraception alone, or disproportionately.
Image for representation

A month or so before her wedding, 23-year-old Rituparna’s mother suggested that they go to a gynaecologist for a ‘normal check-up’. Once there however, her mother told the gynaecologist about Rituparna’s last menstruation cycle and the date of the wedding, then asked for an appropriate birth control pill.

A slightly surprised Rituparna went back home with the prescription. A few hours later, her aunt and mother took her into a separate room when she asked them why she needed to use the pills.

“They told me how we (women) have to offer this (sex) and we cannot expect men to take the lead (in contraception). My mother said, ‘They feel it’s an insult to them. In our time, we didn’t have an option. I married your father in December and had conceived you by March’, my mother told me,” Rituparna narrates.

So, a week before her wedding, Rituparna began taking the pills. She knew about the side-effects in theory but she had no idea they would affect her so badly. “The nausea and irregular bleeding lasted for a month. People expect butterflies in the first few months of marriage, but I had cramps for three months after the wedding,” she says.

Rituparna is among the many women who are made to believe that they must shoulder the responsibility of contraception alone, or disproportionately. And while Rituparna’s husband was horrified at the side-effects and said they would use condoms instead, not all partners are willing to share the responsibility.

A UN study, Trends in Contraceptive Use Worldwide 2015 found that female sterilization is the most popular method of contraception in India, at 65%, and another study shows that male sterilization stands at 2.3%, even though tubectomies tend to be more complicated than vasectomies and take a heavier toll on women’s bodies as compared to vasectomy on men.

Because government data only includes married women and men, there is no way to estimate the usage of contraceptives or lack of it among the rising number of sexually active unmarried people.

Image for representation

Sonik, a 27-year-old consultant with a telecom firm in Gurgaon says that he generally makes it a point to use condoms, but there’s a catch: If something happens on the spur of the moment, he is unlikely to stop and volunteer to arrange contraception.

“I know that it (emergency contraceptive pill) causes cramps, nausea and irregular bleeding. And it is not as if I don’t care if the girl gets pregnant, but I’d go for it (sex),” he says. But he insists that for him, “condoms are the only (long-term) option”, because he does not want his partner undergo the side effects of birth-control pills.

24-year-old Drishya* only remembers using a condom twice in her life. Both of her sexual partners used the rhythm (abstinence from sex) and pull-out methods. But after a recent pregnancy scare, both she and her boyfriend, who lives in a different city, agreed to use condoms the next time they had sex.

The next time they met, Drishya expected her boyfriend to bring protection, but instead, he just refused to be intimate with her, even when she offered to get the condoms. 

“I don’t understand. I know that I am the one who will get pregnant if our contraceptive methods don’t work, but isn’t birth control his responsibility as well?” she asks. He never really gave her a reason for his refusal to use condoms, but only said that he just didn’t want her to get pregnant.

It is also difficult for women to speak about contraception in the first place. Drishya confesses that she feels shy and conscious when reminding her partner to get condoms. “Telling them once or twice is fine, but having to repeatedly say it bothers me. My previous partner even had me convinced that there was no risk if he pulled out,” she says.

Although condoms are 98% effective, and generally do not cause side effects, their usage in India is very low. Contraceptive prevalence for condoms is 6%, meaning that 6% of women (or their partners) in India between the ages of 15-49 use that method.

But the low usage and refusal are not just because of it affects pleasure, breaks the flow, or is a hassle to carry around, or even patriarchal attitudes.

Image for representation

A 2006 survey of 1,000 men by the Indian Council of Medical Research found that condoms manufactured by international firms were too large for Indian men. But today, even though different sizes are available, there does not appear to be any attempt to create awareness about this or dent the inflated importance of penis size.

This situation is made worse by government policies that set sterilisation targets for women and approve drugs that have serious side effects on women.

“Nausea, vomiting, breast tenderness and weight gain are common problems associated with these methods because they work by altering the hormonal balance in the body. In extreme cases, a Copper-T (IUD) may cause infection and the birth control pills may, over time, put women who are genetically prone to cancer, at higher risk,” Dr Marina Varghese, a Kochi-based gynaecologist, explains.

Such disregard for women’s health is pervasive, and includes even the sciences, which is projected as free from gender prejudices. For instance, The Ladies Finger reported in extensive detail, that women’s reproductive health has been treated with sheer disregard as a matter of routine.

A recent study co-sponsored by United Nations, tested a birth control shot on 320 men in monogamous relationships with women between the ages of 18 to 45. It had 96% success rate in continuing users at preventing pregnancies. Side-effects included pain where the injection was administered, increased libido, moodiness and acne.

When the study was called off in March 2011, earlier than planned, because of the side-effects, there was a quite a furore because the same sensitivity shown to the men has not been displayed when it comes to women’s reproductive health, either in India or worldwide.

Why, despite overwhelming evidence about the serious health impacts of most contraceptives on women, does their use persist?

Charlie Moloney’s analysis in IndiaSpend concludes that more often, men are the decision makers when it comes to contraception, especially in rural areas where medical stores and access to health workers may be difficult. So even if a woman is aware of the given methods and may want to stop having children, or have a gap of few years between pregnancies, it is the man who goes to the store, making the decision.

Sameer, a 23-year-old freelance film score composer says that while the responsibility of contraception should be mutually shared, it should fall on men if it has to fall on someone exclusively. “Men don’t get pregnant. And from my interactions with men from various walks of life, I gather that many of them have at some point, put some pressure on their partners to put out. They’re not bad people but it’s just the patriarchal mindset they’re brought up in. So, the least they can do is wear a condom,” he reasons.

(*Name changed)

Supreme Court permits termination of pregnancy at 24 weeks


Supreme Court | (File Photo/PTI)

MUMBAI: The Supreme Court permitted a 22-year-old woman in her 24th week of pregnancy to undergo termination of pregnancy after medical reports found the foetus to be without a skull.

The woman had found out about the defect in the 21st week of gestation when she had a sonography done at a private clinic in the western suburbs of Mumbai.

Under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, abortion is legal in India only up to 20 weeks of pregnancy provided it involves a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or poses a threat of grave injury to physical or mental health, or involves a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities.

Recently, in a rare judgment, the Supreme Court permitted a rape survivor to terminate her pregnancy at 24 weeks.

The Supreme Court had asked the same committee of doctors from KEM Hospital that had given its opinion in the rape survivor’s case in July 2016, to look into the current case.

An amendment drafted in 2014 to a 1971 Act sought to increase the abortion time limit from 20 weeks to 24 weeks. Additionally, the draft bill also recommends that termination be allowed without a time limit in cases where doctors detect a foetal anomaly.

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