If no one marries my daughter, at least the baby will grow up and take care of her, says tribal girl’s mother
"I want to take care of my baby. I can’t go back to school now," says a 13-year-old rape victim, who delivered a baby boy last week in a hospital in Vashi.
The tribal girl, a resident of Bherla village near Panvel in Raigad district, was raped several times by her 55-year-old neighbour, who threatened to kill her parents if she raised a protest. A Class VIII student in a zilla parishad school, the girl had stopped attending classes when doctors revealed to her that she was six months pregnant. The girl’s father said, "Everyone in our village knows about her pregnancy. No one will marry her now. Even in school, everyone knows why she has been absent for so long."
Weighing just 1.2 kg, the baby has been admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the State-run JJ Hospital. Doctors have advised the family to give the baby boy up for adoption, but the family has chosen to raise him. The girl’s mother, a daily wage labourer, said, "If no one marries my daughter, at least the baby boy will grow up and take care of her."Lives at risk
Dr. Ashok Anand, head of the Gynaecology Department at the JJ Hospital, said: "The youngest pregnancy we have seen so far is the 2015 case of a 12-year-old girl who was raped by her stepfather." He said teenage pregnancies often have adverse consequences for both the mother and child.
The victim’s mother said, "We came to know that our daughter was pregnant when we showed her to a local doctor after she complained of discomfort. She had also missed her periods for a while. The doctors told us that she was pregnant and asked us to make her undergo a sonography test at a hospital in Vashi. The test revealed that she was already six months pregnant."
The family immediately registered a police complaint and the accused was arrested. The girl’s father said, "We were told that our girl will have to carry the pregnancy to full-term. We had no choice but to listen to the doctor. They said an abortion would put her life at risk."
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, allows a woman to abort her foetus only up to 20 weeks of pregnancy with an exception of Section 5 of the Act, which allows abortion in case if "the continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of grave injury physical or mental health or there is a substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped."
Dr.Anand said, "We are seeing so many cases where the girl is eventually harassed by parents and forced to drop out of school and marry." He added, "There is tremendous lack of sex education in schools. Parents are also unaware of the importance of discussing such matters with their adolescent children."