Jindal-Ipas joint consultation deliberates on abortion for under-18s in India

The Centre for Health Law, Ethics and Technology (CHLET), Jindal Global Law School (JGLS) in collaboration with Ipas Development Foundation held a one-day consultation on access to safe abortion for minor girls with a special focus on the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) on 12 November 2016 at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.Speaking about the contradictions between the Medical Termination Of Pregnancy (MTP) Act and the POCSO Act, Ms Dipika Jain, Associate Professor, Jindal Global, and Associate Dean and Executive Director, Centre for Health Law, Ethics and Technology, Jindal Global Law School, said, “All pregnant minors are treated as survivors of rape and other pre-existing notion associated with pre-marital sex and abortion-related stigma. This forces many minor girls to seek abortion from unapproved service providers outside the mainstream health system. This is a matter of grave concern and needs urgent redress.”Ms Medha Gandhi, Director-Policy, Ipas Development Foundation, India, said, “We hear incidents where women especially minor girls are denied safe abortion services very often quoting reporting requirements under POCSO as being very complicated. If she is denied access at a public facility or approved private facility, she is likely to reach a backstreet provider who in all likelihood is not going to provide safe abortion services, since most of these backstreet service providers are not trained and equipped for this.”During the event, Professor Upendra Baxi, noted legal scholar and former Vice Chancellor of Delhi University released a report, Abortion Laws in India: Review of Court Cases in India, prepared by the Centre for Health Law, Ethics and Technology with support from Ipas Development Foundation. He said the time has come that Article 21 of the Constitution of India should recognise the right to reproductive freedom and to abortion on request.Ms. Seema Misra Advocate, Delhi District Courts and founder-member of Association of Advocacy and Legal Initiatives said: “There is a great contradiction in the law, the POCSO Act is to prevent sexual abuse, but it is an absurdity because it criminalises all sexual activity below the age of 18, which is not in sync with the times… [For] government hospitals, mandatory reporting poses many operational and access-related challenges. The law requires reporting of rape immediately whereas the primary concern should be medical assistance… All sexual activity under 18 cannot be termed illegal or rape.”SOURCE/PHOTO: Udaipur Kiran, 17 November 2016