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‘My husband tried to force me to abort my twin girls’: Doctor’s charge inflames India’s fight for gender equality

August 14, 2013

‘My husband tried to force me to abort my twin girls’: Doctor’s charge inflames India’s fight for gender equality

Mitu-Khurana

When Mitu Khurana found out she was pregnant with twins, she should have been overcome with joy. But, she says, her discovery marked the start of a cruel campaign by her husband and in-laws during which she was ignored, deprived of food, verbally and physically abused and pressured to abort her babies – because they were girls.

The 36-year-old doctor is believed to be the first woman in Delhi, India, to bring a criminal case against her husband, his mother and brother, and members of the medical establishment for finding out the sex of her unborn twins – an act that is banned in India. But her complaint is also being described as one of “grave national importance” that involves the doctor leading a nationwide struggle for gender equality.

India officially condemns the practice of female foeticide, and prenatal scanning to determine a baby’s sex has been banned for almost two decades. But the government’s own figures, as well as Dr Khurana’s high-profile allegation, suggest the practice has not been stamped out.

Overall, there are around 940 females for every 1,000 males in India, according to the most recent census. The disparity is even more striking when you look at the child sex ratio, which has widened in the past decade. There are around 914 girls to every 1,000 boys, the lowest ratio since 1947, the year of India’s independence. In some high-income areas, such as Delhi, the gap is even wider. In 2011, there were around 870 girls to every 1,000 boys in the city.

Experts put the decline in the number of females down to neglect, high maternal mortality and the killing of female babies and foetuses – a trend thought in part to be motivated by India’s historical dowry system, as well as a strong preference for sons and increased use of sex-selective technology. UN Women said the “dramatic fall” in the sex ratio at birth is of “significant concern” for India.

Dr Khurana says her husband, Kamal, and his family tricked her into having a prenatal scan to determine the sex of her foetuses in 2005 and then tried to pressurise her into aborting them. All family members deny the accusations and have been granted bail. They will appear before a district court, with a representative of Jaipur Golden Hospital, where the scan is alleged to have taken place, later this month.

Two doctors named in the complaint have appealed to the High Court and proceedings against them have been stayed, according to Dr Khurana’s lawyer, Sujatha Balachander, from one of India’s top law firms, which is taking on the case free of charge.

Dr Khurana told The Independent on Sunday that the abuse she suffered during her pregnancy included being pushed down the stairs by her husband, locked in a room and denied medication and bed-rest. “They said I should have an abortion because I was an educated woman and would not want a third child… [which would mean] no son to carry on the family name. They also said they would have to pay a dowry to get the daughters married,” she said.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 5, 2013 4:13 pm

    Warm greetings from London. I was watching the documentary “It’s a Girl” and your story brought me to tears. I had to stop watching and find a way of contacting you to tell you waht gteat admiration I have for you. I have an eduaction company and one of the things that we are driven by is the eduactioon of girl children as I believe that eduacting girls is one of the key strategies for combatting this.

    You are inspring and I would like to chat further about your work and see how it can be supported.

    Regards

    Prean Naidoo

  2. December 17, 2013 12:32 am

    Dear Dr. Khurana, I just watched a documentary on the BBC in which your story was mentioned. Listening to it I felt moved to write this note and wish you all the very best in your plight for justice and dignity. I hope and pray you are given the inner strength to carry on and thereby be an inspiration to others also. I would like to share with you this reflection on my dear late mother who passed away in 2007. She too was an inspiration and thank goodness for all those unidentified women/mothers who give of themselves selflessly. May they be honoured always. Here is the piece entited, A Day Like any Other, http://spiritualhuman.wordpress.com/2011/04/02/a-day-like-any-other/ Kind Regards, Musa Askari

  3. vel permalink
    January 23, 2014 3:55 am

    I live in the United States and just saw the documentary “It’s a Girl.” I applaud the work you are doing in your country. I am an adopted girl born to an unwed mother. I am alive to say there are other avenues available for unwanted children. I was blessed with a wonderful adopted family that love me. You are an inspiration to all women.

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