Over 15 minor rape victims across shelter homes in Madhya Pradesh have become mothers as the Child Welfare Committee didn’t allow them to go for the medical termination of pregnancy, child right activists said on Thursday.
The Child Welfare Committee (CWC) disallowed the request from the victims, claiming there was no such provision in the Juvenile Justice Act.
In a landmark ruling last year, the Supreme Court allowed a minor rape survivor to abort her more than 24-week-old foetus on doctors’ clearance. However, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 sets 20 weeks as the cut-off time for the same.
CWC member Anil Agrawal said that they could hardly grant the permission for MTP as there was no such provision in the JJ Act. Besides, he said, “We don’t want to take any risks by taking such a decision (allowing the same). We forward the matter to the district administration. Our work is to take care of them. The government should take a decision in this regard.”
Issue is complicated as a lot of legality is involved in such cases: Minister
Women and child development minister Maya Singh said, “I have met many such girls. Even, I am worried. But the issue is complicated as a lot of legality is involved in such cases.”
Rape victim Munni (name changed), 13, lodged at a shelter home in Itarsi is a mother now.
With the help of the shelter home officials, she had applied for the medical termination of pregnancy (MTP) with the Child Welfare Committee as soon as she knew she was pregnant. But, the committee denied her the permission and the matter was forwarded to the Juvenile Justice Board. The board took over six months to decide and Munni became a mother.
The story of 15-year-old Gudiya (name changed) of Itarsi is no different either. She too was refused the permission to undergo MTP. Now, she is nine-month pregnant. Shelter home officials want to send her home for better care. But, her family is demanding `10,000 from the home to accept the girl.
There is a need to pay attention to the problem: Activist
Delhi-based child rights activist and former chairperson of CWC, Delhi Bharti Sharma said, “There is a need to pay attention to the problem. The CWC is formed only for benefits and safeguards of minor children and it’s their (the members’) duty to take care of them effectively. If the girls were ready for abortion, why did they not take any action to help them and to reform their lives. Government should take strict action in this regard.”
Another activist said, “The government machinery is extremely slow in dealing with such cases. It seems, they don’t have any vision to deal with this problem.”
The Itarsi shelter home member Manish Thakur said, “We moved pillar to post to save the future of these girls. We submitted application to every possible officer but nobody allowed them to undergo MTP. Now, it is difficult for us to take care of these girls in the shelter home.”
THE MTP ACT
The Medical Termination Of Pregnancy Act, 1971 provides for the termination of certain pregnancies by registered medical practitioners
It was enacted with the intention of reducing the incidence of illegal abortion and consequent maternal mortality and morbidity
The Act came into effect from 1 April, 1972 and was amended in 1975 and 2002
Pregnancies , not exceeding 12 weeks, may be terminated based on a single opinion formed in good faith. In case of pregnancies exceeding 12 weeks but less than 20 weeks, termination needs opinion of two doctors.