Raped and Pregnant at 10, Her Story Echoes Rohtak Child Survivor’s
“She plays with abandon – talks nineteen to the dozen too!” says Neelam Ahuja, a member of the Child Welfare Council (CWC) in Rohtak, with a smile; she’s been visiting the 10-year-old child in question since May. The fondness is palpable – but it is one that has developed and flourished for over two months now. Neelam had met her first in far less favourable circumstances – when the little girl had been brought to the CWC after a stint at the PGIMS Hospital in Rohtak. She had, at the time, undergone an abortion for a pregnancy after having been repeatedly raped by her stepfather.
10-year-old Maya’s* story resurfaces today as another 10-year-old in Chandigarh faces the same medical dilemma.
The district court in Chandigarh on Tuesday, July 19, refused to allow a 10-year-old girl to terminate her pregnancy, after it was established that she was 26 weeks pregnant. Under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, an abortion is not allowed beyond 20 weeks unless there is possibility of risk to the mother’s life. In *Maya’s case, a medical board at the PGIMS had cleared the abortion after the foetus was deduced to be anywhere between 18 and 22 weeks. The local court had adhered to the board’s decision and ruled it safe to terminate the pregnancy.
Chandigarh’s 10-year-old survivor, however, was not so lucky.
Many experts, in fact, remain horrified at the idea of a child getting pregnant at such a tender age.
“It will be hell either way,” said a gynaecologist at a top South Delhi hospital, on the condition of anonymity. Reiterating that this was a “complicated and controversial issue”, she expressed concern over the “strength of a 10-year-old body to carry a pregnancy to term”.
There IS no safe option at this point. Her bones, her pelvis aren’t fully developed to support a child and a pregnancy could be risky for her. At the same time, it is equally risky to abort a foetus at 26 weeks. The only thing that can be done for her is to feed her plenty of supplements and iron to aid some strengthening of the bones, but it won’t be enough.
How Maya’s* Story Had Unfolded
By all accounts, Maya* today is doing well. Neelam believes it has, at least, psychologically, to do with the fact that she has little recollection of the incident. “Even right after the incident, she held no malice against her 20-year-old stepfather, not knowing he’d done anything wrong.”
At the time, Raj Singh Sangwan, Chairman of the CWC, had recounted to The Quint how Maya had asked the institute and the cops to release her stepfather. Hers had been a strange case of familial entanglements – her mother had insisted on her husband’s release, declaring he was the family’s only breadwinner. According to Sangwan, she had urged the child too to plead on her stepfather’s behalf.
“We’d asked her what she would do if he tried to hurt her again. ‘Main aapko turant phone kar dungi’, the child had insisted,” says Sangwan.
A Plea to Abort
Maya’s* condition had triggered a debate in May, as current medical termination of pregnancy laws only allow abortions up to 20 weeks. Dr Ashok Jahan, Medical Superintendent at PGIMS, had told The Quint at the time that there had been hurdles in the procedure, owing to her age, but she had recovered successfully.
Will the 10-year-old in Chandigarh be as lucky?
Currently, Maya continues to live in the Child Care Institute (CCI) where she was sent by the CWC after the Rohtak police opened investigations into her family. It had been suspected at the time that her biological father was alive after all, and that her mother had eloped with his younger brother Suresh (Maya’s stepfather) and fled their native village to Rohtak.
What is common in both cases?
While Maya had placed her trust in her stepfather, supposed to be her primary guardian, the 10-year-old survivor in Chandigarh had been repeatedly raped by her maternal uncle. In both cases, the pregnancy had not even been noticed till it was too late; in both situations, the child had not spoken up for fear. While Maya’s neighbours had been the first to notice her hunching over as she walked and aired their suspicions to the mother, the Chandigarh survivor had finally confided in her parents when the maternal uncle had left their home for his village.
“Maya still has little awareness of what happened to her,” reveals Inspector Garima, investigating officer (IO) in Maya’s case, “She is healthy now and has completely adjusted to her new surroundings, playing with the other children under the care of the CCI”. The cops are still on a hunt for Maya’s biological father – if he exists.
Neelam ji continues to visit her and talks promisingly of a ‘full recovery’. But in Maya’s case, a child with no real family to speak of, a fragile body scarred by an untimely pregnancy and no home to return to, what does that really mean?
And what does it mean for Chandigarh’s little survivor, facing a plight, much too similar and today, far too familiar?