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After SC Verdict on Abortion Rights, Ex-Judge Sikri Says It’s a Step Closer to Addressing Marital Rape Issue

Days after the Supreme Court ruled that women who are victims of marital rape are also entitled to a safe and legal abortion, former top court judge Justice AK Sikri has said the latest verdict would pave the way for addressing the issue.

During an event in Delhi, former judge Sikri told News18, “It’s a step towards debating on the marital rape problem that needs to be addressed. Justice Chandrachud, speaking for the bench, has made an indication that we have to recognise for the time being in a limited sphere that’s its here.”

“…since this one step is taken, the Supreme Court could move in this direction now,” Justice Sikri added.

The comments came in on a recent judgement rendered by a three judges’ bench of the top court headed by Justice DY Chandrachud and also comprising Justices AS Bopanna and BV Nagarathna wherein it held that both married and unmarried women have the right to safe and legal abortion.

Commenting further, the former judge also said while the US Supreme Court is going backward, the Indian Supreme Court has taken the way forward. “Dignity of all, especially woman, in this case have been upheld by this judgment,” the ex-judge added.

The judgment of the Supreme Court held that the decision to abort is her “prerogative”.

“The biological process of pregnancy transforms the woman’s body to permit this. The woman may experience swelling, body ache, contractions, morning sickness, and restricted mobility, to name a few of a host of side effects. Further, complications may arise which pose a risk to the life of the woman. A mere description of the side effects of a pregnancy cannot possibly do justice to the visceral image of forcing a woman to continue with an unwanted pregnancy. Therefore, the decision to carry the pregnancy to its full term or terminate it is firmly rooted in the right to bodily autonomy and decisional autonomy of the pregnant woman,” the bench had ruled.

Shedding light on the grey area in the legal system, the Supreme Court also held that under the definition of rape under this act, marital rapes shall also be included to provide for a safe and legal abortion right to women who were subjected to sexual assault by their husbands.

“Rape means sexual intercourse without consent and intimate partner violence is a reality. In this case also, woman may get forcefully pregnant. Meaning of rape must be understood to be marital rape solely for the purposes of MTP Act. This is important to save the woman from a forceful pregnancy. Any pregnancy alleged to be caused by force by pregnant woman is rape,” ruled a bench headed by Justice Chandrachud.

The landmark judgment came on a petition filed by a 24 years old seeking Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP). The court also said the right to reproductive autonomy is closely linked to bodily autonomy. Foetus relies on woman’s body for nourishment.

The top court in its judgment dated September 29 further held that if women with unwanted pregnancies are forced to carry it till its term, the state would be stripping them of their right to determine the immediate and long-term path their lives would take.

“Depriving women of autonomy not only over their bodies but also over their lives would be an affront to their dignity,” the bench said further.

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Source: News18