Indian girl, 10, permitted to have abortion after rape by stepfather

Nearly 40,000 rape cases are reported every year in India, but the real number is thought to be much higher.
Nearly 40,000 rape cases are reported every year in India, but the real number is thought to be much higher.PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI - A 10-year-old Indian girl who was five months pregnant after being raped repeatedly by her step-father has been allowed to have an abortion. 

The child from the northern Indian state of Haryana, who was often left at home while her mother went out to work on construction sites, has said she was raped by her stepfather, who has since been arrested, reported Agence France-Presse. 

Her case only came to light last week, by which time she had crossed the 20-week legal limit after which terminations are only allowed if there is a danger to the life of the mother or the baby.

The decision to permit the abortion was taken by a panel of doctors at the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (PGIMS) in Rohtak, Haryana, on Tuesday (May 16). The panel was asked to consider the request by a local court that heard a petition from the girl seeking an abortion. 

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Dr Ashok Chauhan, the medical superintendent at PGIMStold the BBC that the termination will be carried out "anytime now", though he had earlier said that the case for termination was "borderline".

"She is around 20 weeks pregnant, but it could be 19 weeks or it could be 21 weeks. The technology is not so advanced that it can tell you exactly what week she's in," said Dr Chauhan.

In recent months, India's top court has received a number of petitions from women - including rape survivors and trafficking victims - seeking abortions where pregnancies had gone beyond 20 weeks, reported Agence France-Presse.

Activists say the restriction should be extended to 24 weeks as victims of rape are often late to report their pregnancies.

In 2015, the Supreme Court allowed a 14-year-old rape survivor to abort a foetus after the 20-week limit.

Pankaj Nain, the police chief of Rohtak district, said the 10-year-old had made a statement to police and was being given counselling and medical care.

Her ordeal came to light when her mother called a women's helpline last week to register a complaint after her daughter confided in her.

Rohtak hit the headlines last week when a 23-year-old was abducted, raped and killed by her ex-boyfriend.

India has a gruesome record on rape, with the capital New Delhi alone registering 2,199 rape cases in 2015 - an average of six a day.

Nearly 40,000 rape cases are reported every year in India, but the real number is thought to be much higher, with victims wary of how their complaints will be dealt with or the social stigma attached to sex crimes.