Pressured to abort twin daughters, woman fights India’s sex-selective abortion epidemic
NEW DELHI, India, December 14, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A woman who says she was pressured, even to the point of torture, by her husband and in-laws to abort her twin daughters, has taken her grievance to India’s legal system, filing a complaint against her relatives and giving a face to the victims of India’s epidemic of sex-selective abortions in the process.
“Female foeticide is a thriving industry in India,” writes Mitu Khurana, whose story has attracted widespread media attention, on her blog. “The practice is rampant. Private clinics with ultrasound machines and other latest technologies are doing brisk business, making a complete mockery of law. Everywhere, people are paying to know the sex of an unborn child and paying more to abort the female child. The technology has even reached remote areas through facilities like mobile clinics.”
When Mitu, 34, a pediatrician by trade, became pregnant with twins in January of 2005, she says her mother-in-law demanded that she undergo tests to determine the sex of the twins. However, Mitu refused to have the sex-indicator ultrasound, a practice that India prohibited in 1994 to try to curb the widespread cultural practice of female feticide.
Mitu’s refusal triggered a response from her husband and in-laws that she says amounted to torture. In an account of her trials on her blog, Mitu claims that, furious at her insubordination, her husband and in-laws denied her food and water, trying to break her will and force her to submit to the ultrasound. She still would not budge, however.
Her husband finally achieved his purpose through deception. Knowing that Mitu was allergic to eggs, he baked her a cake with eggs, assuring her that it was safe for her to eat. That night, Mitu reacted to the poisoned cake and was taken to the hospital the next morning. There her husband persuaded the gynecologist, without Mitu’s knowledge or consent, to perform a fetal ultrasound and to make it look like it was part of the assessment.
When Mitu was found to be pregnant with twin girls, both husband and in-laws pressured her to abort her babies.
“My mother-in-law even told me that my two daughters would be a big burden on the family and I should get them aborted,” she wrote on her blog. “If not both, she said get at least one aborted. When I refused she said at least give one of them for adoption.”
Mitu says her husband began to completely ignore her, and demanded that she take a paternity test since he refused to believe that he could be the father of not one, but two daughters.
One night the enraged husband threw Mitu out of her own home, telling her to go live with her parents.
Mitu finally delivered two daughters in August, two months premature. Her in-laws begrudgingly visited her in the hospital nine days after the births.
For the sake of her daughters, the young mother says she tried her best to save her marriage, even attempting to return to her former life at home, but her efforts were unsuccessful.
“I had no help in looking after the children. There was no love or respect for the children or me. I was not even sure my children and I would be safe there.”
Mitu began to fear for her daughters’ lives, especially after allegedly witnessing her mother-in-law push her 4-month old baby down a staircase, which Mitu claims was deliberate, although her mother-in-law said it was an accident. Fortunately Mitu was able to reach out and save her baby from harm.
By March 2008 Mitu’s husband had abandoned his wife and daughters. He asked her for a “mutual consent divorce” telling her that he wanted to remarry and have sons.
In April of 2008, Mitu turned to the law, seeking justice for herself and her daughters. She filed a complaint to the Women’s Commissions and the health minister, but received no response.
Finally, she filed a complaint under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PC-PNDT) accusing her husband of arranging her illegal ultrasound while she suffered the effects of the egg-poisoning in the hospital.
Her case finally received some governmental attention after it was highlighted by local media.
At a hearing with the District Appropriate Authority, Mitu says she felt slighted when she was told that the “law needs to be explored,” that she should try to reconcile with her husband, and that she could always get pregnant again and fulfill the wish of her husband for a son.
To this day, Mitu says she remains disappointed with the attitude of government authorities towards the plight of baby girls and their mothers’ who try to keep them safe. She believes that those who heard her case sided with the culprits.
“I filed the first police complaint during my pregnancy and have been filing since then. But, … the police have taken no solid step towards nabbing the culprits. Instead, they are taking sides with the offenders,” she said.
“My husband and in-laws were given a clean chit [official note]. I have been threatened many times and persuaded to withdraw the case and told to reconcile with them.”
“The judiciary should be sensitive and take a stand. It has been more than 14 years since the PCPNDT Act was implemented and the sex-ratio in our country is still falling,” she said.
Mitu’s public stand against the prevailing anti-girl values in Indian have now cost the young mother her job.
“Every authority, be it in the police, the judiciary, or the hospital where I was working, are trying to force me to withdraw my cases. It was due to this harassment and certain threats that I had to leave my job recently.”
Despite all the cultural forces that are against her, the young mother says she believes that her daughters and the daughters of India are worth fighting for.
“When my babies hadn’t even entered the world, their end was already being planned by my relatives who didn’t want girl children. They illegally obtained information about the sex of my babies while I was still pregnant and I was pressurized to have an abortion. I wasn’t going to give up without a fight.”
“I hope for a system that’s kinder to women and not just one that says it is,” said Mitu, adding that it is her “dearest dream to bring around the justice I’ve been seeking for my children as soon as possible.”
Mitu hopes that foreign pressure will wake up India’s government who she says “believes in speaking in front of media and harassing anybody who dares speak against them or the system.”
“Even if I can inspire one woman to fight for herself, I would be a proud woman,” she said.
Mitu Khurana is alleged to be the first woman in New Delhi to file a case against her husband and in-laws under India’s 1994 Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act. Delhi courts have yet to give her the justice she demands for herself and her daughters.
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