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'Reminder Of Trauma': HC Allows Alleged Marital Rape Survivor To Abort Pregnancy

The Punjab and Haryana High Court allowed a woman to terminate 15-week pregnancy which was a result of alleged marital rape. The bench headed by Justice Vinod S. Bhardwaj said that if the child is born, it will be a “reminder of trauma and agony”

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Rudrani Gupta
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Image Credit: File Image

Image Credit: File image

In a notable judgement, the Punjab and Haryana High Court allowed a woman to terminate 15-week pregnancy which was a result of an alleged marital rape. The bench headed by Justice Vinod S. Bhardwaj said that if the child is born, it will be a “reminder of trauma and agony” that the woman underwent. 

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As per the reports, the woman was forced to marry her husband. After marriage, the husband inflicted mental and physical torture on her including marital rape. He didn't allow her to contact her parents. If she did, he used to subject her to physical abuse. 

However, on April 16, she escaped her matrimonial home and reached her parents' house in Amritsar. She was in deep mental trauma that relegated her from expressing everything that she went through. 

The court was told that a divorce petition was filed by the woman in which she narrated the details of the torture inflicted on her throughout her married life. A police report was also filed against the husband, although the action is still pending. 

How did the woman approach the court?

After getting pregnant, the woman approached a hospital for an abortion. However, the hospital refused to carry out the termination procedure without a court order. So the woman approached the high court with the petition to allow her to terminate the pregnancy. 

On May 6, the court asked the woman to appear before a medical board for examination. The reports suggested that the pregnancy should be immediately terminated to avoid further complications. 

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Then, Justice Bhardwaj allowed abortion as the "prudent" option by saying that the child born out of the pregnancy would be a reminder of the trauma the woman went through. He also said, “Life is not just about being able to breathe rather it is about being able to live with dignity." He also said that the child too will live a “tormenting life” or “a life with no dignity”. Hence, the court concluded that both the child and the mother will have to face social stigma and shame for the rest of their lives.

Hence, Justice Bhardwaj directed the Civil Hospital to take the appropriate steps to carry out the termination procedure. 

The significance of the judgement

This judgement follows the Supreme Court judgement of the year 2022 when it allowed survivors of marital rape to terminate unwanted pregnancies. This led to the widening of the exclusive cases of abortion of pregnancies within 20-24 weeks which only involved rape survivors

The judgement indeed is notable as it not only condemns marital rape but also allows women the freedom to terminate unwanted pregnancies. In our country, marital rape is still not a crime. Even then, many courts have condemned it and ruled against it. In this case, even though marital rape was not targeted directly, the trauma and pain that were born out of it was acknowledged. 

Moreover, spreading the ambit of terminating unwanted pregnancies and including married women in it breaks the stigma that every pregnancy in marriage must be pursued. Although, the ambit is open only to those married women who have survived marital rape. 

So progression indeed is commendable but let's not stop at this. Progression is a continuous process. 

Views expressed are the author's own. 

Unwanted pregnancy marital rape abortion
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