Two residents of Chak Tuti have been accused of sexually assaulting their sister-in-law and two midwives employed at a basic health unit in the village of aborting the resulting foetus at the behest of the suspects to cover up the crime.
In a complaint filed with Sabzpir police, the victim’s grandfather, Shareef Ali*, stated that Majid* and Rizwan* allegedly sexually assaulted the woman in the absence of her husband, who had moved abroad for work after their marriage six months ago. He alleged that the woman was pressured by her in-laws to stay quiet about the matter. They, however, expelled her from their house after making her abort the child about two months ago, he said.
The complainant said the delay in the filing of the police complaint was due to interference by village elders who had been insisting that the matter be settled out of court.
“I didn’t expect them to do justice with my grand-daughter so I finally approached the police,” he said.
Talking to The Express Tribune, the two midwives at the BHU admitted that an abortion had been carried out but said that they had only followed the family’s directive. “We did not force the woman to abort the child. Her in-laws asked us to do so,” one of them said. Besides, she held, the child was deformed and would not have survived. She said the woman was pregnant for about five months.
Investigation officer Aftab Shah said the complaint was received and FIR registered on Thursday (December 1). He said they were investigating the case and that arrests would be made if evidence were gathered against the suspects.
*Names have been changed to protect the victim’s identity
Abortion allowed only if mother’s life is threatened.
Abortion is allowed under the Pakistan Penal Code only if the pregnancy poses a danger to the woman’s life.
In 1990, the Pakistan government revised the pre-partition penal code of 1860 to bring it in line with Islamic teachings. Under the revisions adopted, the conditions for legal abortion were set in accordance with the developmental stage of the fetus—that is, whether the foetus’s organs are formed or not.
Islamic scholars consider the foetus’s organs to be developed by the fourth month of conception. Before formation of the organs, abortions are permitted to save the woman’s life or to provide “necessary treatment.”
After organs are formed, abortions are permitted only to save the woman’s life.
The penalties for illegal abortion depend on the stage of foetus development. Before organs are formed, the offence is penalised under civil law, by imprisonment for three to 10 years. Once organs are formed, Islamic penalties in the form of compensation are imposed. National Commission for Maternal and Neonatal Heath report 2009.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 3rd, 2011.
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