Pune: Fifteen-year-old Saeeda Zohar (name changed), a native of Jessore in Bangladesh, never knew that 15 days after her marriage, she would be sold to a brothel in Budhwar Peth in Pune and become pregnant with the child of one of her customers. Saeeda came to know about her pregnancy only after she was rescued eight days ago by law enforcement agencies.
Saeeda is now four-and-half months pregnant and eagerly wants to abort the child, but she has to wait for permission from the court because as per Indian laws, pregnancy can be terminated only till it is twenty weeks old. Only in the rarest case, the court allows termination of pregnancy after 20 weeks.
Saeeda is already 18 weeks pregnant and has only two weeks' time left with her to get the permission.
Saeeda was trafficked to India by her husband six months ago. After her marriage in Jessore, she stayed with her parents for 15 days, after which she was trafficked to India by her husband on the pretext of taking her to Dhaka.
Another Bangladeshi girl, Zeenat Tabbasum (name changed), hailing from Khulna is two months pregnant. She is 17 years old and was trafficked to Pune six months ago by her husband.
Zeenat discovered about her pregnancy in the medical test after she was rescued. She too wants to undergo abortion.
The story of 16-year-old Neeta (name changed), is similar to Saeeda except that she gave birth to the unwanted child. Neeta, who hails from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, was trafficked to a brothel in Pune more than a year ago. She was more than three months pregnant at the time of her rescue. But due to delay in getting the court's permission, she had to give birth to the child. She gave the child up for adoption and left with her family to Amethi.
According to Rescue Foundation, which assists the police in rescuing such girls, lengthy procedure is one of the reasons for unwanted deliveries.
Shiny Padiyara, Superintendent of Rescue Foundation, said, “In 80 per cent of the cases, the time for medical termination of pregnancy (MTP) period gets over and the girls are forced to deliver the child. The unwanted pregnancy and the sexual abuse which they already had to face in brothels has shattered them and they don’t want to keep the child. On an average more than 10 minor girls in the brothels of Pune get pregnant every year and half of them have to deliver the unwanted child.”
Tejesvi Sevekari, a social worker working with commercial sex workers said, "A child who is sexually abused cannot co-relate with the child born out of such abuse and wants to abort such birth."
"Minor girls are produced before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) after their rescue. The CWC gives the order for conducting their medical tests as well as age verification. If in case the girl is found to be pregnant below 20 weeks and wants to abort the child we again appeal to the CWC for the order. This entire procedure takes time and exceeds the MTP period in many cases," added Padiyara.
Priti Patkar, a social worker based in Mumbai said, “By the time these minor girls are rescued they are already 2 to 3 months pregnant. But in cases of minors, we have to follow the procedure as per Juvenile Justice Act, which does take time, but we have to follow it. It's very difficult for the child to take the decision as she was already going through the trauma of sex crime at the brothel and after her rescue she has to deal with unwanted pregnancy.”
Triveni Acharya, founder of Rescue Foundation said, “The girl can abort the child only after being permitted by the court and Child Welfare Committee. It takes time to get their permission. Meanwhile the MTP period gets over and the girl has to deliver the child.”
PM Nair, a former IPS officer and expert in the field of anti-human trafficking said, “There is a high demand for young children in the criminal world of sexual exploitation. It is one of the gravest violations of right and dignity of these minors, which is quietly going on. A sexually abused young girl of the age of 14 to 15 years giving birth to a child is in itself a matter of gravest concern. I think law needs to roll a little faster in order to sort out such issues."