In a unique initiative, possibly for the first time in India, the Department of Social Welfare (DSW) of the Delhi government has started a separate short stay home for pregnant minors at its Nirmal Chhaya campus in west Delhi.
Earlier, minor girls - prosecuted by court, rescued or under rials - would all be put in Nari Niketan, the shelter home for destitute women.
However, after an amendment in the rules in 2009, it became mandatory to send all girls below 18 years of age to a children's shelter home.
But a peculiar problem arose once the department started sending pregnant minor girls to the home.
Said Neera Malik, chairperson of the Child Welfare Committee at the Nirmal Chhaya campus, "For a child of say six or seven years, witnessing labour pains can be a traumatic experience. To avoid this, we have decided to take the pregnant girls to this specially created dormitory arrangement after completion of seventh month of pregnancy."
Such girls mostly belong to lower economic strata. Almost 70% of them are lured into sexual relations by promising marriage while around 30% are rape victims.
"Parents are unwilling to take the pregnant minors home. Only in case of rape victims sometimes do they understand and take them back," Malik said.
The short stay home has been started recently - the notification for the same was issued by the department on November 3 - and currently has just two girls. It is a dormitory type of arrangement with a capacity of 15 inmates.
The girls can stay at this shelter home for two weeks after the delivery if both the baby and mother are in good health. Then they are sent back to the children's home.
Welcoming the step, Raj Mangal Prasad, chairperson of Child Welfare Committee (south district), said, "This issue (of pregnant minors) needs to be addressed not just by coming up with shelter homes but at many other levels like school education, spreading awareness, regulating wasted interests and monitoring by statutory bodies."