Protecting Our Weak

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The humaneness of a society is determined by the degree of protection it provides to its weaker members, it is said. The Nari Niketan rape case and others similar show that it would be difficult to term Indian society humane.

A few months ago a 19 year-old mentally challenged girl, was raped in Nari Niketan- a state- run institution in Chandigarh. She subsequently became pregnant.

The Director, Social Welfare, Amandeep Kaur, kept on insisting that nothing could have ever happened at Nari Niketan.

Two security guards working at the institute were remanded to judicial custody on charges of rape.

The MTP act prohibits terminating a pregnancy that has continued for more than 20 weeks. The girl is in the 20th week of pregnancy. So The Punjab and Haryana High Court directed the Chandigarh Administration to “promptly and forthwith” medically terminate the pregnancy .
 
The judgement reads- “We find that the victim is neither intellectually nor on social, personal, financial or family fronts able to raise a child. We are satisfied with the reports that the victim is incapable of understanding the concept of motherhood or of pregnancy or pre and post-delivery implications. Asking her to continue with the pregnancy and, thereafter, raise the child would be a travesty of justice ….

A Delhi- based advocate filed a petition challenging this decision, and yesterday (July 20)The Supreme Court of India issued a notice to Chandigarh administration ….after hearing the special leave petition filed ….. asked the UT administration to file their reply on the matter on Tuesday.

The Supreme Court is to deliver its verdict today (July 21).

Even those who are against abortion in general will find it difficult to oppose this abortion. The poor girl does not even understand her pregnancy. She is not capable of raising a child. If born, is the child to go to another such institution? What would be its fate there?

Whatever the decision of the Supreme Court, there is no doubt that society has failed in its duty. The very institution that was to protect her, facilitated this rape.

Time will only tell if her rapists are sentenced. It is necessary that justice be done to deter such attacks on other girls . The harshest punishment possible should be meted out to such animals.

But the long-term answer lies elsewhere. Morals are descending to unimaginably low levels in our society today. People think that it is permissible to do any heinous deed as long as they are not caught.

It is necessary to change the mindset of our society so that we learn to listen to, and act according to what our conscience tells us. Whether anyone is watching us, or not. Whether there is risk of being caught, or not. Whether we will be punished or not.

The answer lies in the mind; if change takes place there, it will take place in our actions also.

edited to add ;- The Supreme Court today stayed the Punjab and Haryana High Court ruling to help the mentally retarded rape victim to terminate her pregnancy.

A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan said its detailed reasoning for the stay would follow later.

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32 thoughts on “Protecting Our Weak”

  1. Yes, Manju, no one has got any conscience nowadays – 'it is common everywhere', attitude helps frequency of this type of incidents. I wonder if the guards are married and have daughters or sons, who will be maligned for life, because of their father's act. The photos of these guards should be publicised first and should be punished in such a way – not just imprisonment or death – but if proven guilty, should be publicly punished, so that no one will dare to do this act again. I know a family with a daughter who is mentally retarded. She is my namesake too. Sometimes she talks very intelligently. She seems to be a happy child. Two years back, her mother got her uterus removed.

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  2. A sad story indeed. I wonder what sort of mental make up the advocate who has challenged the High Court order has. As you have brought out, if ever there was an open and shut case for termination of pregnancy, this is it.Yes, everywhere we can see that "it's fine as long as you don't get caught" attitude. I am sure those who raped this girl would have thought that they would never be caught. Perhaps they were not wrong; those who do get caught are few indeed.A change in the mindset of the society is badly needed.

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  3. Sandhya– Last year the state govt. of Maharashtra had brought out a proposal to perform hysterectomies on all mentally challenged women in state institutions. The reason given was that they could not take care of their hygiene. But it was widely thought that this was the real reason.Vinodji– I also wonder why this advocate challenged the HC order.It was just on the news that the Supreme Court has stayed the order. The girl will not have an abortion.

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  4. I wonder how anyone could argue against MTP in this case. I read the link you have given and it says towards the end, "Tanu Bedi carried the day with her argument that a girl, even if mentally retarded, should not be deprived of motherhood which is her right." OMG it would seem as if the girl whose mental age is supposed to be of a 9 year old asked for the right for motherhood!!What sort of inhuman, callous and insensitive people were the guards?? And wonder what they were guarding!? Stringent punishment is needed in such cases. Yes, the mindset has to change too, a lot.

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  5. A very sad and sorry incident and you are right, it highlights what level we as a society or culture have stooped to. I guess we will have to wait for the reasoning of the SC for staying the state HC's order.

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  6. Shail, Vinodji, SagaroneDNA says-The judges said that from the beginning they were having only one concern whether the victimwas in a physical condition to give birth to the child.Advocate Tanu Bedi, who argued that the victim has a right to give birth to child, drew the attention of the court to a law under which welfare of such persons are taken care.She said under the National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act, 1999, such children are taken care of.The Bench, said "we are sure that somebody will be in a position and come to give protection to the child".The court even posed question that "is it not possible for the Union Territory Administration to take care of the child".

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  7. Kislay– Reading the views of the Supreme Court, it is difficult to make any comment…These problems will become the problems of your generation in a few years, Kislay, and I hope you know how to face them better than our generation does!

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  8. Manju, I cannot agree with the reasoning of the court. The girl was raped and is in no condition to look after the child. The idea of the government bringing up such a child does not seem right to me at all. Sarah Palin, as I said earlier, must be pleased. She advocates no abortion, even in cases of rape. You may recall that she had drawn a lot of criticism for this anti-woman stance during the US elections.

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  9. I find it sometimes very difficult to stomach such occurances. And wonder, what we have come to as a society. As mankind. To feast on the weak is becoming a coat of arms of sorts. An apalling coat of arms. Sigh.

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  10. Vinodji– If the child is brought up in such an institution like Nari Niketan, it would be likely to meet the same fate as its mother.:(I remember Palin bringing her pregnant teenage daughter with her while she was campaigning and makig a point to say that she was not having an abortion(something about 'family values'!).Kavi– 'To feast on the weak'- terrible words, but very apt ones!Yes, what we have come to as a society….

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  11. Morality, and a sense of good and bad, should ideally come from within. If it is only external and is something that is judged and evalutated in police stations and law courts, then we will have many such instances of people committing crimes thinking they can get away with it. Religion used to encourage the development of conscience in its followers, but now even religious leaders are busy fighting over other issues.

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  12. I am angry and sad at the same time. I don't even want to comment on the case …it is a shame. But you are so right in saying that what is needed is a change in the mindset. The Free Will has been stretched thin and is at a snapping point.

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  13. A very sad story…What will happen to the child? He/she will be abused just like his/her mother…It's sad when people or institutions who are supposed to protect their wards abuse them instead…Where has the trust gone?

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  14. While people are going hoarse shouting about "the right to experience motherhood", and asking for "rulings" from courts, have they forgotten that the wronged woman, however mentally disabled she is, has a mind ? Many times , one is amazed at how perceptive such people are in situations. In stead of empathizing with this, the court (I hate to say the honorable court), took recourse to a psychiatrist and a gynaecologist, and recommended continuance of the pregnancy. I wonder if the judge even spoke to the wronged woman. And while the poor woman gets more and more traumatized, the two fellows in custody, will probably use a technicality to escape punishment and be out to terrorize others. The court should appropriate a certain percentage of their salaries for life, and grant it for the care of the unfortunate woman, and the even, about to be, unfortunate child. Yes, society's mindset needs to drastically change. But what of these two lives of the mother and child ? Now ?

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  15. It is a shame on the society.The one who is suffering really is the one to count.The whole attitude of the society is getting negative.So long as i am safe-who cares.And what about this Lawyer?I hope some day he will see reason.Just for academic knowledge please check who is the chairman of Nari Niketan?You may be surprised

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  16. Sucharita– I am reminded of a story- One morning a Guru set a task for his disciples. Each one was given a fruit and told to go and eat it where no one could see him. They were to report back in the evening.They came back in the evening having eaten their fruits, except for one disciple who still carried it in his hand.The Guru asked each one where they had gone to eat their fruits. 'Inside a cottage after locking the door', 'on a high branch of a tree', 'in a cave'- came the answers.The last disciple answered,' I could not find a place where no one would see me eat it, because I knew that even if other people could not see me in a cave or high on a branch- God would always see me wherever I go.

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  17. Chrysalis– Yes, the tendency to do whatever we feel like, and take whatever we want has gone too far, it seems.Sraboney– That is the saddest part- those who were supposed to protect her, abused her.Ugich Konitari– Yes, the court should direct a portion of their salaries to be used for the care of the mother and child. "right to experience motherhood?"- I wonder if the advocate understands what she is saying? The right to become a mother through being raped?

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  18. Chowlaji– I know that the Nari Niketan is being administered by the Social Welfare Department of Chandigarh but do not know who the Chairman is. Though I doubt that anything can surprise me…To be fair, though, I do not know how much the office-bearers would be able to influence the day-to-day running of the institution.

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  19. I absolutely do not agree with the decision of the SC at all.How will the girl look after a baby?Who will be responsible for giving the child a secure home? a secure future?This is wrong on so many levels as Kislay says its just frustrating!this reminds me of the horrific almost real life show that sued to come on DD when I was a kid..that used to show the brutal reality of such nari niketans/bal ashrams/bal sudhar grihas… :/

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  20. I think this actually happened(correct me if I am wrong) but wasn't there a case a few years back of a nari sudhar griha where the warden was actually 'supplying' girls to 'clients'? it was a brothel.

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  21. 'The humaneness of a society is determined by the degree of protection it provides to its weaker members' – Makes so much sense.. and yet it is the weaker sections of the society that get exploited in so many ways..As for this particular case, I shudder thinking of it… the protector turning into the predator.. As for the SC's verdict – while it might mean a huge step for the rights of the disabled.. I wonder if it is a sensible decision in this case. The lady apparently wants to give birth.. even if we accept her basic rights – is it right for the unborn child? What about his/her future – especially given the fact that the child will end up in another govt institution which failed to protect his/her mother…I somehow cannot understand the SC's logic in this judgement, at all.. It just seems one wrong over another..

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  22. Indyeah– This seems to be a case of misguided activism. DNA reports that Tanu Bedi, who argued on behalf of the woman, asked: "Why would a girl, even if mentally retarded, be deprived of motherhood which is her right?I wonder that Tarun Bedi is not so concerned about the girl's right not to be raped. News reports say that she has been raped several times in the institution.Smitha– Why is this a huge step for the rights of the disabled? Disabled women have the right to give birth to a child. They can not be forced to have an abortion.Here the situation is that the girl is not mentally capable of taking a decision. The Court has to take one on her behalf keeping her best interests in mind.

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  23. Should she be allowed to teminate pregnancy? Frankly, it is difficult to answer this question. We will have to recognise that there could be many right answers depending on what we value. CJ of Supreme Court is known to give very good judgements. It may be good idea to await full text of judgement.Vivek

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  24. Vivekji-Yes, I agree, we may know what was the reasoning behind the judgement after the full text is released. I am surprised though, that the judge shuld think it prudent that an institution run by UT Chandigarh should take responsibility for the child- keeping in mind what happened to the girl in a state-run institution.BTW- Welcome back to Mumbai!

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  25. Why should anyone carry the pregnancy caused due to rape….leave alone whether she is sane or insane…yes day by day our society is becoming less humane…

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  26. Anrosh has sent a comment by e-mail-this news would not have been out unless there was an animosity with the "whoever is in charge of women and children in the mantralaya" and to create a political hungama. such incidents are very common in government run ( assuming that if it is ) institutions and it is all kept hush-hush. corruptions runs in its deep veins, resources are thwarted and so do supplies. the supervisor who is responsible for many activities in the organization is overworked and underpaid. And when "some head comes over to visit" they do all the cleaning up. protecting the weak should be – goes without saying, but what happens is "exploiting the weak".

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  27. for all who said , who will look at the baby – here is the point.if the judge ( that is the state ) orders abortion – it is actually committing murder.the child can be put for adoption if the next of kith cannot be the guardian.becoming pregnant is NOT A CRIME.The act of rape is.The CRIMINAL IS THE MAN WHO COMMITED THE CRIME – Rape AND NOT the women who is pregnant.Punish the criminal and the crime.and not the "life" who is born in the womb.

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  28. Anrosh– In my opinion, the morality of abortion in general (Choice v/s Life) is not the issue here.I have personally known women who have had abortions because "they forgot to use contraception" and became pregnant. There are also those who have abortions because they "have second thoughts after becoming pregnant".These abortions for comparatively frivolous reasons do not invite comment in India. But this case, where the mother-to-be has the mind of a nine year old, the pregnancy is the result of a rape, and the child will probably be sent to a Home just like that where its mother was raped – in such a case women's rights activists are up in arms?

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  29. First of all such guys should be hanged till death. That is the only punishment I can ever think of them. And after that it must be published in the papers.There was a hinjewadi incident about a year ago when a girl working in a reputed MNC was to be driven by the company cab driver to her office for a night shift.The girl was educating herself while working and lived far away from her parents.After the driver and his assistent raped her, she pleaded them to leave her alive, but the culprits killed her in a very weird and dangerous way.I can never forget that incident for all my life.

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  30. Where a girl is not safe in a state run institution….. how can we make sure that the girl and her child will be taken care of by the state?? iam pro life but every situation calls for a different solution and in this case certainly the court has taken the wrong one…instead of thinking logically the decision was made emotionally…… which is a wrong step or the girl and the inborn child….http://masalabowl.blogspot.com/

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