Can minor rape survivor access medical treatment before justice?

On 18th July, 2017 Chandigarh District Court refused to let a 10 year-old, minor rape survivor access abortion services. She was 26 weeks pregnant. Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act,2017 does not allow women to abort foetuses beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy. Supreme Court directed the PGI Hospital in Chandigarh to set up a medical board to examine if it was safe to terminate the pregnancy. The 10 year minor rape survivor has entered the 27th week of pregnancy. The medical board is directed to deliver the decision by  28th July,2017.

FACTS

Let us re-look at the facts here: A 10 year-old young girl has been raped. She has been dragged from one court to another court, one hospital to another hospital and finally she is lying in PGI hospital with a medical board of 8 members who will decide if her pelvis is strong enough to deliver a child. Her body is up for examination and her narrative is up for evidence checking. Sources reveal that both abortion or pregnancy can lead to drastic consequences.

LAWS & POLICIES

Several pieces of legislations actually came in to monitor the child but they failed to provide any respite to the survivor. The MTP Act 1971, says that after 20 weeks seeks medical opinion of 2 registered practitioners to access abortion. Here is a young girl who is raped and is totally dependent on her parents and relatives to access services. Section 357 C of Criminal Amendment Act,2013 clearly provides that the hospitals shall immediately provide the free medical treatment to the victim.

These are some of legislations in place that provides for relief for rape survivors, but in such a scenario where there is a young girl who has been allegedly raped by her relative, how is one supposed to engage with these legislations? Most of these legislations look at punishing the perpetrator but what about the young girl in this case who might have to undergo severe complications and might require a much more holistic approach to justice and healing?

What could have been done better for the young girl, so that she could have approached an institutional set up and actually access better services? Can our public health system make the process easier for her? Who gets to decide if 10 year-old girl could abort a fetus which was a result of a rape? Could she actually go ahead and just get the medical treatment without engaging with the legal system?

Inspite of a public health sector which provides for provisions at different levels, we are still not able to handle the cases of minors getting raped or minors trying to access abortion services. In the Chandigarh case, it was requested to in the Supreme Court to lay down appropriate guidelines to set up a permanent medical board in each district of India for expedient termination of pregnancies in exceptional cases involving child rape survivors. But the issue is, we already have existing mechanisms at the institutional level that have been set up for helping the rape survivors. But have they really been useful or have they been utilised by the survivors?

What could have helped the girl better? 

One Stop Crisis Centers were specifically created for rape survivors so that they could access all the services. All services including abortion should have been provided to her. 2 years post Nirbhaya fund, and various studies by organisations later, we are yet to find effective One Stop Crisis centres that provide relief to the survivors. One Stop Crisis Centers in her district could have been one of the possible places she could have gone to access abortion. Could she go there alone?  It has been alleged that one of her relative had raped her, in such a scenario how would a One Stop Crisis Centre be useful for her? How many of us even know about One Stop Crisis Centers in our own districts?

If the family had brought her to the health system for help, she could have availed the medical treatment in a speedy manner under  Section 27 of POSCO Act, 2013.  But again she needed the help of a guardian. As she is a 10 year old she could have approached the Adolescent Friendly Health Clinic, which provides gynaecological services in cases of crisis in her Community Health Clinic in her district. She could have been referred to a gynaecologist and she could have suggested an abortion.  AFHCs are still not being used by adolescents.

Will one more board help?

Why are we still seeking for more institutional mechanisms when we are not able to ensure that young people are able to use the existing mechanisms without the help of adults? The 10 year-old had to run from one institution to another before she was finally placed at one of the biggest hospitals in Chandigarh. Most of the debate around this 10 year-old is about the number of weeks of her pregnancy. The courts, the hospitals, the police and the family have made her into a case study. The 10 year-old needed help and should have been able to access these existing mechanism provided in the system, if there was information, if she and her people around her knew of some of the existing mechanisms that could help her. We should have ensured that she gets medical treatment and then we could have followed up with the legal case. In our thirst to get her justice, we have been so entangled with the procedures that today in between 27th and 28th week, her life and her well beings depends on the opinions of experts.

 

5 reasons that will take me back to Chandigarh’s Rock Garden

Growing up in Delhi, I have an aversion to anything planned in my life. This also reflects in my taste for cities. I have always loved Delhi for its lack of order and the fact that it was always a mystery and roads could always help you loose yourself in a city. It always felt like a ‘shehar’, a culmination of abstract points which made it difficult for me ever expect anything. So planned was certainly not the word I ever associated with cities.

Chandigarh, on the other hand, was the city I knew to be hailed for its planned narrative as a city. It is a city that grew out of conscious efforts of people. Vertical and high rise buildings were ruled out, keeping in view the socio economic-conditions and living habits of the people. My recent visit to Chandigarh was a direct confrontation with this planned city.

Chandigarh felt like a city of lines and geometries. Every road has a number, a co-ordinate, a landmark to be found, for some it must have felt the haven for treasure hunting. Every shopping street of each sector is linked to other sector, making continuum the factor. For some, this would have been awesome, but for me, it just re-inforced the city, which was built on narrative without any tinge of nostalgia.

I had heard a lot about Rock Garden, and I had seen the pictures of it all over the Internet. It is a garden built from waste, a garden which was built by dreamer, who could make children smile. It is a very romantic narrative for a city, which was bit too structured for me. I still went ahead for Rock Garden, as Ned Chand had a beautiful narrative to nudge me.

img_20161027_1626321. Museum of waste

A collector of memory, Neb Chand was a Road Inspector in the Engineering Department of the Chandigarh Capital Project. He picked up stones resembling bird, animal, human and abstract forms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

img_20161027_1436352. Abstract pieces

Rock Garden is an exact opposite of Chandigarh, which has become synonymous with ‘planned city’ in India. In simple words, it does not follow structures, it sees purpose in abstract things, it has reused, recycled things from residential and industrial waste.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3. Elements of life

The Rock Garden has resemblance of a life which might not exist in a city anymore. It has the 5 elements of life, and restores the fantasy imagination of a child with nothing but curiosity to lead one.

 

 

 

 

4. Swings to Fly By

This garden is a wonderful place to explore img_20161027_155413your senses, where you can sit for hours doing nothing. You can walk staring at such amazing sculptures. There are places where there are swings. It was fascinating to see people of different age groups trying these swings. These swings are lined up in a beautiful way, where from a far away space, you can see a ray of swings lined up with nothing but beautiful colours giving them company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Fantasy Land

The Rock Garden has a perfect combination of the hills, the waterfalls, the plains and the plateaus. It aims to heighten our senses and makes us walk amongst the different elements of life. In its own quaint way, Ned Chand, the dreamer was able to convert his collection into a dreamhouse for all the souls of the city. It is the restoration of beauty which somehow gets restricted in the city, and is allowed to flourish amidst the has been beautifully spanned over acres of land.

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Can Government Hospitals be trusted? #Chandigarh Study

“Chandigarh is a planned city” – We started our journey with this thought.  The city Chandigarh was designed by Le Corbusier.  It is well planned. The city is divided in different sectors; each sector having its own markets, parks and other necessities. It was very easy to map and travel in Chandigarh because it is systematically designed. So, we easily found the Hospitals. On the other hand, finding information about abortion clinics, Sexual and reproductive health was a big task. Chandigarh is a union territory with lowest female sex ratio. Hence, the city is very strict about Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (Prohibition of Sex Selection). In such a case, it is very difficult for a woman to seek abortion. Hence, the mapping was bit difficult.

Hidden Pockets does mapping of public health service providers. These services are based on Sexual and reproductive health and rights. Hidden Pockets tries to locate these providers on maps so that people can make use of it when needed.  Accessibility, affordability and approachability is the key parameters we check while mapping the hospitals.

We reached Chandigarh by  11 in the morning.  The mapping started on the same day . PGI hospital is one of the biggest hospitals in North India” said one of the passenger in the bus which was heading towards Sector 17.

We straight away headed to Sector 12 where PGI was located. PGIMER (Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education & Research) is a medical and research institution located in ChandigarhIndia. It has educational, medical research and training facilities for its students. The passenger in the Bus was right about PGI. The campus was big and had several wings with various facilities. Inside PGIMER we saw Nehru Hospital, which was inaugurated by Pt Jawahar Lal Nehru on 7th July 1963.

Nehru Hospital: It is very easy to locate Nehru Hospital. All the auto guys will know it. It is located at Sector 12. One needs to go to C Block, 3rd Floor to meet the Gynae.  One would find the Operation theatre just next to the lift. It has several private and general wards for the patient. The cleanliness of the hospital was average. The Hospital guards were helpful. The admit card is available for around INR 2. It is available at the ground floor. Nehru Hospital is a referral hospital. Severe issues are taken up here. It serves thousands of patients.

Then we went to Sector 16, where we saw Government Multi Specialty Hospital, i.e. GMSH 16 Hospital. It is very close to Rose Garden.  We followed the sign boards and reached the Department of Gynaecologist. The department is at the ground floor. We saw the Medical termination of pregnancy (MTP) Operation theatre room here. GMSH 16 hospital was the only hospital where we saw MTP O.T.  We could not find this room anywhere in other hospitals we visited. The hospital was clean and the security guard was helpful. This hospital also had HIV testing centre. Here the OPD (Out Patient Department) registration costs INR 2.

After Sector 16, we visited Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) which is located at Sector 32.  This hospital was the best among the four government hospitals we visited. The Department of Gynaecologist is at Block 2. One needs to reach level 2 (room no: 2408) to see the Gynae. The floor was flooded with ladies and gents. Most of the ladies wore the wedding bangles (chooda). I called this hospital the best because it had lot of facilities which we did not see in other hospitals. On the same floor, we saw special clinic for Sexually Transmitted Infection/Reproductive Transmitted Infections (STIs/RTIs). HIV testing is also available here. I was happy to see a poster related to awareness about HIV and the poster included transgenders also. The hospital also had Paediatric and Adolescent Gynae clinic, counselling and testing centre, a special room for Medical social worker and a minor operation theatre for diseases related to women (Stri Rog). All these facilities were present on the same floor. The hospital was clean. I liked this hospital.

The last hospital we visited was, The Civil Hospital which is located at sector 22.  It is the Maternity wing and the Community Health Centre. To meet the gynae one needs to go to room 29 which is on the ground floor. The hospital was smaller than the other hospitals we visited.  The operation theatre and labour room is on the first floor. The stairs leading towards them can be found behind the canteen. It also has private and ward rooms. There was one thing which was strange. Outside the Gynae room, law related to Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT)was written. This act bans prenatal sex determination. Having the poster related to PCPNDT next to the gynae room will stop ladies from accessing safe abortion. Sex determination can happen only after 12 weeks. Not everybody is aware of this fact. People looking for safe abortion would return home thinking abortion is completely illegal and might end up dying or suffering due to unsafe abortion methods. What is the point of having facilitators around when at the entrance incomplete information is given?

Finally, if I sum up, Chandigarh Government hospitals are easily accessible. All the auto guys are familiar with them. The hospitals are reasonably clean; the guards are helpful and the doctors try their best to attend all the patients. One needs to be very careful about the posters used inside the hospitals because incomplete information can lead to greater disasters. People of Chandigarh! If you get time, please visit these hospitals and let us know what do you think about them?

The piece is by Aisha Lovely George.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leisure Valley: Pleasure Pockets in Chandigarh

Chandigarh is known for its wide streets, large parks, and easy navigation. It is the first planned city of India, and so it has a very different feel from a city that has emerged organically. There is none of the wild chaos of Delhi or Jodhpur here. It is large and airy and often seems empty. There is little history to go back to. Sometimes it seems suffocating, monocultural; a strange mixture of a small town and a large metropolis. Yet in the late afternoon the sun slants onto wide roads and concrete buildings, through tree-lined avenues and parks, and the world seems burnished with gold.

I try hard to let myself enjoy this city, its easy beauty and clean air. But it is a hard thing to explain. Chandigarh has never been about the tree-lined streets for me. It was about the tense social situations, the awkward parties, the overdressed aunties and the gleaming mall. Everybody here wanted to move closer towards the large metropolis, whilst keeping a hard small town mentality hidden in the folds of expensive clothes. As soon as I could, I left. Yet even though I try to disown it, pretend I do not know it, I must return here to my family, to my home, to forgotten friends. I try hard to find love for it in my heart.

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Photo credit: Purvai Aranya

Objectively, it is a beautiful city. Sometimes we drive over to Leisure Valley, a series of parks that stretch over multiple sectors, and take a walk at dusk. It is green and large and silent, and I feel as though I am somewhere secret. The park is full of joggers and walkers, couples who hide behind the large bamboo bushes and whisper to each other. Everybody my age is over at Elante Mall, the monstrosity in Industrial Area. Apparently, it is the second largest shopping mall in North India. It could be anywhere in the world, if it weren’t for the staring men and coarse Punjabi abuses.

I watch ‘Why Loiter’, a TedX talk by Shilpa Phalke and try to reimagine Chandigarh for myself. I want to reclaim public space in this city, and not in Elante mall.

Phadke talks about ‘loitering’, spending empty time in public spaces, and how much this simple act can challenge: gendered assumptions about how women should act and where they should be seen; the global vision of citizens as being constantly productive or consuming; the idea that cities are ‘safe’ insofar as one interacts only within one’s own community of class, caste, and race. Parks are vibrant spaces for rebellion: people can own this space no matter what their gender, caste, or class is, and they can spend time in human interaction that doesn’t have to be mediated by consumer culture.

It is possible to meet a friend without buying expensive coffee, or watching a mindless movie, or window-shopping for useless things. You can even hear the wind rushing through the trees, or the chirp of a bird in the distance. You could lie in the grass and breathe in the silence. The simple, basic revolution in this idea makes me giddy with joy: it is a re-imagination of the urban wasteland. I want to create space for myself in this city, and I want to find some love for it. New resolutions: I will visit Rock Garden again, and I will go to Rose Garden, Butterfly Park, the Terraced Garden. I will reclaim a city that haunts me.

Author Profile: 

Purvai Aranya is a 20 year old undergraduate at Ashoka University. She is studying English and Philosophy. When she isn’t writing or drawing on any available surface, you will find her worrying or talking to the moon. She wants to continue reading, exploring and learning as she grows older, She has recenty fallen in love with cities, and wants to fight fiercely to make space for herself in the world. She puts up poetry, pictures, and paraphernalia at http://purvaiaranya.blogspot.in/.