A horrifying story of rape, its aftermath and the lack of reproductive rights for women has emerged from India, once again drawing attention to the cultural problems the nation faces in the handling of sex crimes. The victim at the center of the controversial case, The New York Times reports, is a girl investigators believe is 10 years old and who is about 20 weeks pregnant. The girl, from the state of Haryana in northern India, is said to be carrying the child of her stepfather. On Tuesday, a panel of 10 doctors who examined the child agreed to allow her to terminate the pregnancy — an outcome that was very much in question due to India’s notoriously strict abortion law, which denies women pregnant beyond the 20-week threshold access to an abortion unless a doctor can prove her life is in danger. In this case, doctors speculated the girl is around 20 weeks pregnant, perhaps 21 weeks or 19 weeks — a critical number given the rigidity of the 20-week law.
The shocking case began making headlines in India last week after authorities received a phone message left by the girl’s mother on a crime tip line specifically for the reporting of crimes against women. She’d taken her daughter to the doctor and discovered the pregnancy, at which point the girl opened up about having been raped repeatedly by her stepfather — and intimidated into silence. The girl’s mother pleaded for her daughter to be allowed to have an abortion.
“We found the girl in very miserable condition,” one police investigator who looked into the case told the Times. The investigator said the girl was “repeatedly raped by her stepfather over a period of time.” According to Dr. S. K. Dhattarwal, the head of the forensic medicine department at Rohtak’s Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, both the girl’s mother and stepfather work outside the home — though reports are conflicting on what their occupations are. What’s not in question is that investigators say that while the mother was at work, the stepfather, believed to be in his early 20s, allegedly used her absences as occasions to rape his stepdaughter over and over.
“She is traumatized and not able to speak properly,” Dhattarwal, who examined the girl, said. “She was not able to understand what was going on with her. She was subjected to sexual intercourse several times.”
The BBC reported that the local court in the town of Rohtak accepted the panel of doctors recommendation that the abortion should be allowed and that the procedure will be done “anytime now.” The stepfather has been placed under arrest.