INDIA – Abortion for survivors of sexual assault: The Delhi High Court guidelines

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP Act) is now to be read with the guidelines issued by the Delhi High Court.

On 9 August, the Delhi High Court added two important guidelines for officers, doctors, and other authorities in cases of medical termination of pregnancy of sexual assault survivors. The Court said:

  • The medical termination of the pregnancy is to be carried out with “utmost caution” by the medical professional involved.
  • The investigating officer must ensure that the survivor is taken to the hospital within 24 hours of receiving an order for the medical termination of the pregnancy and ensure that the fetus is preserved (whenever such an order is issued).

The High Court issued these guidelines after a 14-year-old survivor of sexual assault and her mother moved court this year, seeking termination of the pregnancy of the minor, who in January was over 24 weeks pregnant. However, in August, during the bail hearing of the accused in the case, the court found that despite an order, the termination of the pregnancy of the survivor was not done medically, leading to a loss of crucial evidence.

The article continues with an outline of detailed guidelines from two separate court cases in January and August 2023. They include a mandatory pregnancy test of the survivor at the time of the medical examination, which is especially important for minors. According to Aishwarya Sinha, Senior Social Worker at iProbono:

“Many children do not realise they have become pregnant. It only happens when they think they have been missing their periods for a long time and they see that this is a matter of concern. It is only on visiting the doctor that the pregnancy is discovered. That is how a lot of cases of sexual assault are reported with minors.”

MTP Act & Guidelines

The article continues: “The High Court also emphasised the importance of consent and desire to terminate the pregnancy. In the case of minors, it is important to take the consent of both the survivor as well as the guardian. Once the consent has been attained, the survivor must be presented before the medical board on the same day, to fast-track the process and not lose time. Post this order, the survivor has to be taken to the hospital concerned within 24 hours. This applies irrespective of the gestation period.

“The High Court asserted the need for the establishment of medical boards in government hospitals in all districts. At the time of writing, there were only four hospitals in Delhi where the medical board had been constituted in accordance with the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act.

“The fetus must be preserved for use in checking the DNA of the accused rapist. Finally, detailed records must be filled in and kept. Lastly, the Child Welfare Committee must be involved during and after the abortion and the discharge of the child from hospital.”

Having worked closely with over 250 minors who have been survivors of sexual assault, Aishwarya Sinha says she has found the provisions to be effective: “These guidelines, in my experience (with regard to Delhi), are effective and they have been followed. The practices are in place. And with CWC and bodies like these, there is a better system in place, because a child survivor of sexual assault can get help.”

SOURCE: The Quint, by Aishani Menon, 20 August 2023.


Delhi government official rapes a minor who had been living in his home; his wife gives the girl abortion pills

The Delhi Police have registered a First Information Report against a senior Delhi government official for raping a 16-year-old girl repeatedly over several months, police officers aware of the case said. The sexual assault left the girl pregnant, after which the suspect’s wife gave her abortion pills and ended the pregnancy, said officers.

According to a Delhi government spokesperson, the suspect is a deputy director in the women and child development department. The government takes a serious view of such crimes and, if found guilty, severe action will be taken against the official, the spokesperson added.

SOURCE: The Hindustan Times, 22 August 2023


Privacy for minors seeking abortion post-consensual sex, Madras High Court says

In a significant legal announcement, the Madras High Court has ruled that doctors are not obligated to reveal the identity of a minor seeking termination of pregnancy due to consensual sexual activity. This landmark decision was issued by a Special Bench of Justices N Anand Venkatesh and Sunder Mohan, who were convened to address cases involving the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012. The official text of the Act itself can be found here.

SOURCE: She the People, by Harnur Watta, 19 August 2023

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