The 10-year-old rape survivor who will soon give birth – now that the Supreme Court has dismissed a plea to allow her to terminate her 32-week pregnancy – may need years of sustained counselling centred on respect, rehabilitation and resilience, experts say. The three Rs are necessary to help the child, raped by her uncle and just a few weeks away from full-term pregnancy, cope with the trauma of the assault as well as the childhood pregnancy, psychologists and childcare experts said.
“She should get continued support in the form of good counselling. She needs to be rehabilitated and not abandoned in a dirty home. She needs to be in a place where she would be respected,” Mumbai-based psychologist Harish Shetty told PTI. Too young to have attained the “developmental maturity” to deal with the issue, the child may suffer psychologically as well as physically, the experts state.
City-based psychiatrist Samir Parikh advises psychological interventions not just for the child but for her family as well. “Such interventions could help in the healing process post the trauma associated with the experience, while also helping the child and the family members develop more adaptive coping mechanisms, and also work on building the child’s resilience post the pregnancy,” Parikh said. Such an experience is also likely to lead to interference in the child’s interpersonal relationships, personality, self-esteem and overall health, he added.
According to Mumbai-based gynaecologist Sonal Kumta, giving birth and abortion in such early pregnancies are both “equally risky”. “It may lead the girl to be anaemic or the baby to be born prematurely,” she said.
Shetty went on to say that counsellors must look out for sudden emotional outbursts and tend to her in an “understanding” manner. “One should understand her grief and help her resolve her issues slowly over a period of time. They should look out for emotions and excessive fears — nightmares, sadness etc.”
He added the process of rehabilitation should not stop. “She should be helped in building resilience and start a new life in a new city with a new identity,” he said.
While diagnosing pregnancy in children as young as 10-year-olds is very difficult, Kumta advises “educating” girls from the start to make them aware. “We need to be aware that something like this can happen and not be in a denial mode,” Kumta said.
Courts allow medical termination of a pregnancy up to 20 weeks under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act and can make an exception if the foetus is genetically abnormal.
Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, stressed there should be no delays in court decisions on such cases, for the health of the mother was of paramount importance. “A delay in hearings in such cases is unacceptable. There should be a day by day hearing as it will have consequences on the health of the mother,” she said.
The PIL in this case was filed after a Chandigarh district court on July 18 refused to let the girl undergo the abortion as it was confirmed that she was 26 weeks pregnant. Considering the report of the medical board that terminating the pregnancy would neither be good for the girl nor the foetus, the apex court had expressed satisfaction over the medical care being provided to the survivor.
An apex court bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud took note of the report of the medical board set up by PGI (Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research) Chandigarh to examine her and the consequences if the termination of pregnancy was allowed. The bench asked Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, who was present in the court room, to consider its suggestion to set up a permanent medical board in every state to take prompt decisions on prospects of early abortion in view of the fact that such cases were reaching the apex court in a big way.