In a heart wrenching news, a request for abortion by a 10 year old pregnant child was turned down in Chandigarh, India. The pregnant child is a victim of incest and sexual abuse. Raped by her uncle on various occasions she fell pregnant, and had approached the court for an abortion. The victim is the daughter of poor parents, her mother works as a domestic help and father is a government employee.
Indian laws do not allow the abortion of foetus post 20 weeks. Exceptions are made, but only when genetic defects are present in an unborn child. In this case, the victim of rape is 26 weeks pregnant. Which means almost 6 weeks beyond the ‘legally’ allowed time frame. Hence she was denied abortion by the court.
Some have expressed shock on little girls getting pregnant at such a tender age. But, here lies the irony, little girls are under attack for the same reason: they cannot get pregnant at such an early age and they cannot fight back. They are easy prey. Disturbingly, in most the cases of child sexual abuse, the abuser is known to the rapist. Young girls are specially vulnerable to incest by predators lurking in the family.
What is incest?
Incest, defined as sexual activity between close relatives and family members, is a taboo topic world over. People involved in such sexual unions are usually related by blood, adoption, marriage, step family or are from the same clan or lineage. While some incestuous relationships may be consensual, most of those involving children are not. Any sexual activity involving children is termed Child Sexual Abuse or Rape.
Shocking statistics on Child Sexual Abuse in India
In a shocking report released by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, 53 percent Indian kids had experienced sexual abuse of some kind in their lives. The report covered different forms of child abuse: physical, sexual and emotional, as well as female child neglect.
At 53%, the statistics indicate that more than one child amongst every two children is a victim of sexual abuse. A dangerously horrifying statistic to come to terms with. This report, released in 2007, mentioned that amongst the abused – almost 22 percent of them had faced severe forms of sexual abuse.
In 94.8% of rape cases, the children were raped by someone they knew, not strangers. These acquaintances include neighbours (3,149 cases) who were the biggest abusers (35.8%). In 10% of cases, children were victims of rape by their own direct family members and relatives.
The little girl, raped by her uncle, comes in this category of 10%. While statistics give us a picture, the picture is still incomplete. For the fear of shame, children who face sex abuse and rape by an uncle, cousin, father or any other relative often hide abuse from mothers. Then, how can we collect accurate data on them? It is estimated, for every case of incest reported to the police, 100 go unreported.
Without a doubt, the little girl child in question faced repeated assaults by her uncle. And, he would have probably kept up with his abuse had she not fallen pregnant. Often, girls of her age are shy and often unaware of what is happening to them. How will they even tell their guardians? Probably her pregnancy gave it away, just like the recent case of another 10 year old girl child in Rohtak.
Raped by her uncle too
Similar to the Chandigarh case is the Rohtak case. In the Rohtak case, the child was raped by her uncle (paternal) who is also her stepfather. The stepfather/paternal uncle scared her with dire consequences if she ever spoke about her abuse to anyone. Her condition only came to light when the mother took the child to a doctor. According to doctors, with a 5 month pregnancy (20 weeks) her condition was serious.
While in the Rohtak case, the court allowed for her to get the medical termination of foetus. In the Chandigarh girl’s case, court denied her an abortion. Due to this judgement the child will have to give birth to another child. A dangerous predicament for the family of the victim and the victim herself.
Why is it dangerous for a ten year old girl to give birth?
Firstly, the pelvic bones of small girls is not developed completely. Hence, it goes without saying that a full-term pregnancy is very risky. An underdeveloped pelvic implies that the hips are not wide enough. Therefore, a baby cannot be birthed by being pushed down the birth canal.
Such a labour has ghastly consequences. If this girl goes into labour, she may not be able to able to deliver the child and as a consequence die in labour. And, the unborn baby will die with the the death of the mother. If she survives, she is going to have various complications from this birth.
Even though an underdeveloped pelvis completely rules out a normal delivery, a Caesarean section at that age is risky and dangerous too. In addition, the foetus absorbs its minerals from the body of the mother. In this case, the mother is still a child and growing herself. Just like a leach, the foetus is most likely to drain its mother of nutrients that she herself needs for her growth.
If that is not enough, the risk of having deformed children is very high. According to countless researches by scientists and anthropologists; incest has very serious biological repercussions. There is a 40% – 50% increase in the birth defects that a baby born of incest carries. Apart from birth defects, the baby also has a huge chance of mental disability.
The future of victims of rape
Not allowing a child already burdened with the psychological scars of rape to abort is dangerous. It is like forcing two children down the path of a terrible life. The baby of this incestuous union has roughly a 50:50 chance of having mental retardation or a severe birth defect. How do we suppose a ten year old child can care for another child with problems?
According to Dr. Rajat Mitra, a clinical psychologist, “young girls are target for incest because they are vulnerable. They are not taught how to resist adults. And, in many cases they are outnumbered and overpowered”. He is of the opinion that while some victims of rape bounce back, many do not.
Dr. Rajat Mitra is the director of Swanchetan Society for Mental Health, an NGO which provides services to survivors of violence, abuse and trauma. He also studied sex offenders to understand the motivation behind their attacks, interviewing hundreds of them in Tihar Jail over several years. For his expertise on child sexual abuse, he featured on the TV show Satyamev Jayate.
With regards to the future of the child raped by her uncle, he added, “her life will be traumatic. There is little doubt about it. The scars will remain for the rest of her life. She may suffer from post traumatic stress symptoms”.