By Meghna Pant, Features Editor
There was a largely unnoticed news report last week about a 24-year-old woman who was abducted in July last year and taken into confinement by a group of men who then gang-raped her till March this year. A horrific story. It got worse. The woman became pregnant during this time. After she managed to escape from her abductors, she moved to court to terminate her pregnancy. The Gujarat high court refused permit. You see, the law does not permit abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Imagine the woman carrying a child in her womb as a result of rape. Imagine how traumatic, humiliating and frightening this is for her. How will she feel when the child is born? Will the child not serve as a reminder of the seven men who gang-raped her for months in forceful confinement? At the same time, this is her child, she is the child’s mother, and will this mother not be torn apart when she has to give the child up for adoption?
The woman is a native of Botad district and lives with her husband and two kids in Surat. How will her husband and her children treat her after she gives birth to another’s child? I think I know the answer, for she pitifully beseeched to the judge to let her terminate the pregnancy, otherwise her husband could disown her and her family life would be ruined.
And our Indian society? Will it treat her with the kindness she deserves or make her an object of scorn and ostracization?
And what of that poor innocent child? What kind of cruel life will he be born into?
This woman has become another one of India’s rape victims. Her life’s story would have ended with her being a rape survivor. But now she and this child will have to bear the burden of brutality and those brutes. Sad. The only people who should have suffered in all this should be the rapists, but they’ve done their heinous deed and had someone else pay for it.
Earlier this month, an Indian-American woman, Purvi Patel delivered her illegitimate stillborn baby and abandoned it in a dumpster. Her parents were orthodox and the father of the child – a married co-worker with whom she’d had an affair – was unavailable. Purvi was sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of feticide and child neglect.
Two women. Both not wanting the child growing in their womb. Very different endings. One is a victim and one is a criminal. Who decided for them? Society.
Does a woman have the right to choose whether or not to have an abortion? Is the foetus a human being with a fundamental right to life? A great deal changes for women when abortion is or is not available. If abortion is denied, then a woman’s freedom and achievement of equality is denied. An age-old debate on abortion and women’s reproductive rights, with no correct answer.
Picture Credit: Advocate Art