Thursday, August 17, 2017

Survivor turns victim when a raped girl is forced to become a mother

A schoolgirl is raped by a random man who is almost her father’s age or more. He rapes her over several months and an embryo forms inside her womb. She is pregnant. Let us call her Gudiya.

Parents don't notice the pregnancy of the cherubic girl who is not even in her teens. It wouldn't even have crossed in their wildest nightmare when their little girl turned chubbier and cuter. They just believe that their Gudiya is growing up.

The foetus starts moving, with webbed fingers.

Gudiya plays around as usual, in her colourful world. The man is still exploiting her, threatening her not to reveal it to anyone. The lower middle-class parents are struggling to build a wonderful world that they didn’t have, for Gudiya.

Now the foetus has developed fingerprints.

Little Gudiya doesn’t understand what the man is trying to do; but he told her that she would be reprimanded by her parents if she told them about it. She forgets the ‘painful’ moments once he leaves.

The cartilages of the foetus have now developed into bones.

One morning, Gudiya gets stomach pain. Parents take her to doctor and the revelation sends their world upside down. Their little one, who had attained puberty at an early age, is pregnant.

The girl now plays around with a foetus that has eyebrows and eyelids too.

The devastated parents learn that they need legal consent to abort the foetus and approach the local court. The case goes on for couple of weeks before it is referred to the higher court.

The wrinkled skin of the foetus has started smoothening out.

The higher court discusses the matter for some days and refers it to the Supreme Court. The parents, with all their energy, fight the case as their Gudiya is unmindful of her stomach bulging out.

The top court refers the matter to a medical panel. The panel of expert doctors examines Gudiya and come to a conclusion that it is risky to go for abortion at this stage.

The foetus is a baby now. Probably it can see around and snuggle closer to its mom's body for more warmth.

Social stigma haunts the family. They huddle inside closed doors and ponder over options like migrating to another city or even killing themselves, amid sobs and tears. Outside, mediapersons wait for a human interest story while activists line up to take up the case.

The family could barely manage to make both ends meet. But they were rich in dreams... of giving Gudiya all the comforts that they never enjoyed -- educating her and finally seeing her fly high. All have fallen like a pack of cards.

Gudiya wants to play outside but her health now doesn't permit her to run around like earlier. Her tummy has grown much more and is restricting her movement. She remembers doctor saying that she "will have to" deliver a baby. But how, she doesn't know.

We get to know about such Gudiyas at an alarming frequency - a minor rape survivor in court seeking abortion of her foetus. We also hear about infants being buried alive or thrown into canal by a mother who conceived the baby after she was raped. We also hear about young mothers who abandon their newborns as they “just didn’t want to see its face” that reminded them of the sexual assault.

Our courts have taken regressive stand when rape cases were "settled" by marrying off the survivor to the rapist. In other words, letting the pervert that he was, rape her any number of times with societal and legal consent.

Law becomes further regressive when it forces motherhood on a girl, grand-parenthood on her young parents -- even if they hate the baby, whose father is their worst enemy in life; the person who gate-crashed into their world of joy and shattered their dreams.

Gudiya's school may object to her continuing with her studies there. Other parents may not allow their wards to hang around with a girl who is "morally corrupt".  Can the court ensure that she leads a normal life without any such hurdles? The answer would be a disappointing “No”.

The new “unwelcome” entrant to the family would be the worst sufferer. Will the young mother, probably 10 or 12 years, be capable of bringing up a child by giving him/her the needed psychological and financial support? Again, No. The young grandparents who didn’t want the baby to be born will be burdened.

The fight of a new life – the baby - begins here; to be accepted, loved and cared for, finally to grow up beyond the scar that he/she has become for the family. Again, a struggle forced by the law of the land.

Considering the normal route of law is abysmally slow, cases on pregnancy of a rape survivor, especially if she is a minor, should be fast-tracked so that no girl suffers due to time loss.

The officials who handle such cases – right from the constable who take the complaint at police station to the court attendant and the judge – should be sensitised about the urgency in which the case should reach a logical end.

There should be amendments in the law to abort the foetus even if the legally permitted period is crossed, provided the child mother is healthy. It would help the family move on. 

Help her to be a survivor, not a victim.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

We, the people

During growing up years, Republic Day was always confined to schools, local clubs or residents association meetings. There was nothing around to remind me of the significance of the day otherwise.
In Delhi, it was hard to miss the day approaching with tightened security  and traffic diversions along with roadside vendors selling all kinds of paraphernalia in tricolor. This is the place where you can wear patriotism on your sleeves without being frowned upon.

It was only Doordarshan that took us to Rajpath on January 26 every year when I was home, in faraway Kerala. I wished to see it live and didn't want to miss the chance when I'm in Delhi. Armed with a pass issued through an Air Force officer, I headed for Rajpath at 7am.

Since Udyog Bhavan metro station was inaccessible, I decided to get down at Race Course station and walk to Rajpath. Didn't opt for cab because of traffic restrictions. I was worried if I would lose way but the crowd led me.

Security checkpoints all along ensured that we were guided right. After almost an hour-long walk, I reached somewhere near and could see a huge queue on a barricaded footpath near Vigyan Bhavan. People were trying to jump the barricade and security personnel were sweating it out. After some 10 minutes of jostling in the queue, we realized it wasn't moving for some reason no one knew.

By then, security men gave up and let people jump the barricade. People were pushing and elbowing me around while rushing to jump over or pass through under the barricade. I didn't want to do it but had to struggle hard to be on my feet amid the maddening crowd. 

Finally when I made my way to the entry point, what welcomed me was a security barricade. Men in uniform told us the point has been closed and asked us to go via Akbar Road. We had no option. I saw those who jumped the barricades walk inside the area that was now prohibited for people who waited in the queue!

The Akbar Road entrance was too narrow (via controller of accounts office) to take the crowd. Metal detectors were almost pulled down and a near-stampede situation prevailed. I dreaded getting crippled under the feet of the crowd! 

I went through the security check though I am clueless how the personnel on duty would have caught a terrorist among them! It was their luck too that none made his/her way inside with weapons. Room for a thorough check was nil though the advisories issued earlier warned against even carrying gadgets. People went in with whatever they carried!

There was a further tortuous walk before reaching 14, the enclosure number in my pass, which included wriggling through couple of barricades. The only other option was to get crushed by the hurrying crowd. By then it was almost 9am. I was relieved that my pass said "be at your seats by 9.15".

Finally the big board of 14 welcomed me. I rushed towards it to see a huge crowd shouting "Bharat Mata ki Jai", rather angrily. It took some moments for me to realize that the entrance was closed as it was "full" though my pass, issued by name, clearly said it was non-transferable.

I felt miserable. I thought of returning but didn't want to give up. I approached an IPS officer on duty who told me that number 14 was full and I could try any of the nearby enclosures that are open.

Along with a group turned away from 14, I approached the next enclosure that was open. I could see men and women in uniform from the armed forces, some with their family, being pushed around with us.

Seats were all occupied inside the enclosure but to climb on for a clearer view! After a considerable fight, I managed to find space to stand on a gallery. I was relieved that I could see the procession though from a distance.

The sky was heavily overcast and I was exhausted. I was wondering why I didn't choose to watch it on TV, as always. I also wondered what brought people from Jharkhand, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Haryana, Manipur and Maharashtra in the few square meters of space around me. I heard them exchange pleasantries while helping each other to climb on to the chair or take a photo and exulting when their state was mentioned in the announcement.

Then the Prime Minister and chief guest went by, national anthem was played, cannon shots boomed, military and civilian floats went past, martyrs were remembered, men, women and children in uniform marched by, helicopters waving tricolor lit up the sky, Tejas thundered into hearts... All accompanied by patriotic slogans. I looked around and realized nothing else mattered to them but India.