Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Supreme Court gives married women right to abort forced pregnancy

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The Supreme Court on Thursday observed that in order to save married women from forceful pregnancy, marital rape has to be considered as falling within the meaning of ‘rape,’ so as to allow them to abort the same under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act.

The Bench of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice A.S. Bopanna and Justice J.B. Pardiwala noted that any pregnancy alleged by a pregnant woman to be caused by force, comes under rape.

While stating that rape meant sexual intercourse without consent and that intimate partner violence was a reality, the Apex Court noted that in this case also, a woman may get forcefully pregnant.

It further said that married women may also form part of a class of survivors.

The three-Judge Bench ruled that rape meant sexual intercourse without consent and that intimate partner violence was a reality. In this case also, a woman may get forcefully pregnant, it noted.

The observations were made during today’s verdict in a case related to permitting an unmarried woman to abort her pregnancy older than 20 weeks.

Earlier in the day, the Apex Court had held that the 2021 amendment to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act did not make a distinction between married and unmarried women.

The matter was related to the question whether the exclusion of unmarried women, whose pregnancy arise out of consensual relationship, from Rule 3B of the Medical Termination Rules, was valid.

Rule 3B mention the categories of women, whose pregnancy in the duration of 20-24 weeks can be terminated.

As per the Court, if Rule 3B(c) was understood as only for married women, it would perpetuate the stereotype that only married women indulged in sexual activities, which was not constitutionally sustainable.

On July 21 this year, the Apex Court had allowed an unmarried woman, who conceived during a consensual relationship, to abort her 24-week-old foetus.

The appellant woman, a resident of Manipur and currently staying in Delhi, had moved the Delhi High Court after she came to know about her pregnancy.

However, the High Court refused relief to the woman, holding that an unmarried woman carrying child out of a consensual sexual relationship could not be permitted to terminate pregnancy older than 20 weeks.

She then moved the Supreme Court, which ruled on July 21 that the High Court took an unduly restrictive view in interpreting the MTP Act and Rules.

Case Tile: X vs The Principal Secretary Health and Family Welfare Department, Delhi NCT Government and another

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