Supreme Court upholds rape victim’s sovereignty over her body

The apex court has held that the fundamental concept relating to a woman's "bodily integrity" and "personal autonomy" have to be given due respect.

Published: 17th August 2017 10:01 PM  |   Last Updated: 17th August 2017 11:25 PM   |  A+A-

Supreme Court. (File photo | PTI)

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI: A rape victim who was wrongly disallowed by authorities in Bihar from terminating her pregnancy was awarded Rs 10 lakh as additional compensation by the Supreme Court on Thursday.

The apex court upheld the concept of a woman’s sovereignty over her body - which has “to be respected”. It also ruled that there was no need for a mentally challenged woman to secure the consent of her guardians to undergo medical termination of pregnancy (MTP).

The destitute woman was allegedly raped in the streets of Patna but was not allowed by a medical board in Bihar to abort her 26-week pregnancy. She came to realize her pregnancy around the 13th week after she had been found by a women's rehabilitation centre named Shanti Kutir, and taken a pregnancy test on January 26 this year.

The bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said, "The fundamental concept relating to bodily integrity, personal autonomy and sovereignty over one’s body has to be given requisite respect while taking the decision (on MTP) and the concept of consent by a guardian in the case of a major should not be overemphasized."

Justice Misra added, “Hospitals should be absolutely careful and the treating physicians should be well-advised to conduct themselves with accentuated sensitivity so that the rights of a woman are not hindered."

The judges said it was sad that despite the prompt attempt made by the court to get the woman examined so that she need not undergo the anguish of bearing an unwanted child, the medical report clearly stated that there was risk to the victim.

The bench acknowledged that the woman had suffered impairment to her mental faculties and while "one may have the courage or cultivate the courage to face a situation, the shock of rape is bound to chain and enslave her".

The bench said compensation would aid the woman to live her life with dignity., “We have so directed as we want that the money to be properly kept and appropriately utilised. It may also be required for the child's future. That apart, it is directed that the child to be born shall be given proper treatment and nutrition by the state and if any medical aid is necessary, it shall also be provided.”

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