File photo shows a woman checking her mobile phone inside the premises of the Supreme Court in New Delhi, India — Reuters
Indian Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday ruled that forced pregnancy of a married woman can be considered "marital rape" for abortion purposes, in a landmark decision on women's reproductive rights and bodily autonomy.
“Married women may also form part of the class of rape survivors. Rape means sexual intercourse without consent, and intimate partner violence is a reality. In this case, also woman may get forcefully pregnant,” said a bench, headed by Justice Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud.
“Any pregnancy alleged to be caused by force by a pregnant woman is rape,” it said.
The bench, which also included justices AS Bopanna and JB Pardiwala, also interpreted the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act to declare that even an unmarried woman will be allowed to go for abortion up to 24 weeks, on par with married women, Hindustan Times reports.
The existing provisions in the Act do not allow a single woman to go for abortion after 20 weeks while divorcees, widows, and some other categories of women are allowed termination of pregnancy up to 24 weeks on account of mental anguish and some other hardships.
“Law cannot create such artificial classification based on narrow grounds...the decision to carry a pregnancy to full term or to abort it lies in reproductive autonomy of a woman, which is rooted in bodily autonomy. Depriving her of this right will be an affront to a woman’s right to dignity,” said the bench.
On July 21, the top court allowed the woman to go ahead, provided a medical board certifies that there is no threat to her life from the abortion. On that day, the bench also decided to examine the scope of the MTP Act and the rules under the law that differentiates between married and unmarried women.