Child rape victim renews focus on sexual violence in India

Child rape victim renews focus on sexual violence in India

Indian demonstrators shout slogans during a protest calling for better safety for women following the rape of a student, in front of the Government Secretariat and Presidential Palace in New Delhi in this Dec. 22, 2012 file photo. — AFP

NEW DELHI — A 10-year-old Indian girl allegedly raped by her stepfather was expected to undergo an abortion on Wednesday, police said, in a case that has renewed the focus on sexual violence against women and children in the country. The victim’s mother found out that her daughter was several weeks pregnant but could not get an abortion because Indian law prohibits terminations more than 20 weeks unless the mother’s life is in danger or in exceptional circumstances. A court allowed the abortion to go ahead last week. Investigators have alleged that the girl’s stepfather, a construction worker, had repeatedly raped the girl while the mother was away working as a domestic helper. The girl was in hospital in Rohtak in the northern state of Haryana, 65 km from New Delhi. “The doctors can’t wait even for a day now and at the same time we want to ensure the girl’s life is not at risk,” said investigating officer Grima, who only uses one name. In recent months India’s top court has received a number of petitions from women — including rape survivors and trafficking victims — seeking abortions where pregnancies had gone beyond 20 weeks. Activists say the restriction should be extended to 24 weeks as victims of rape are often late to report their pregnancies. Meanwhile, The Indian Express said the victim’s mother wanted the accused to be set free as he had apologized and that she had other children to take care of. “The girl’s life is destroyed but what will happen to my other children? I need to think about their future too,” the daily quoted the mother as saying from a hospital in Rohtak, a district in northern Haryana state. Sexual violence against women is a highly-charged issue in India, where the horrific, fatal gang rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi in 2012 sparked nationwide protests about entrenched violence against women and the failure of authorities to protect them. As many as 10,854 cases of child rape were reported in India in 2015, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. A UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2014 expressed alarm over the widespread sexual abuse of children and said one in three rape victims in India was a minor. — Agencies