INDIA – Child safety law leading to unsafe abortions among girls under 18

The conflict of theProtection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) 2012 and the Medical Terminationof Pregnancy Act 1972 is making doctors hesitant to provide abortion servicesto girls under the age of 18 due to fear of prosecution, and teenaged girls areapprehensive of seeking abortion services from legal providers, in turn,forcing them to seek unsafe abortion.

Forexample, a few days after discovering she is pregnant, a young woman, alongwith her mother, went to a gynaecologist in Mumbai. She wanted an abortion. However,she was a few months short of 18, which according to the POCSO Act means therecan be no consent involved in sex, and an act of sex is considered to be rape.Hence, doctors are bound by the law to inform the authorities. In this case,the doctor reported to the police, who took the girl and her mother to apolice station in the neighbouring town, where the alleged “crime” occurred. Hoursof interrogation followed, and the young man was arrested. It took the girl 10days to get an abortion. Two months later, the doctor was called to give astatement to the police. Yet this young woman was planning to marry herboyfriend.

According to the 2015-16 National Family Health Survey, 8.6 milliongirls in the age group 15-19 years are married before 18 years, and more thanhalf of them (4.5 million) have become mothers during adolescence. Yet 10 millionadolescent girls who wish to avoid pregnancy are not able to accesscontraceptives due to the same law. We have to ask how many real rapesgo un-investigated and unpunished, while consensual sexual relations betweenunmarried couples are prosecuted.

SOURCE:, by Adrija Bose, 23 October 2019 ;PHOTO:, 21 June 2016