As part of our ongoing campaign to combat the declining child-sex ratio, our colleagues and allies in Andhra Pradesh (like SERP*) are currently fighting for justice for the family and dear ones of the 28-year-old Vijayalakshmi who died after a botched-up attempt to terminate her pregnancy on the grounds that she was carrying a girl-child.
This gruesome incident happened at a nursing home in Kodad, Nalgonda. We have managed to come out with a fact-finding report with the help of our friends and allies on the ground and have successfully registered a case against the clinic which first performed the illegal act of sex-determination of the foetus and subsequently terminated her pregnancy.
Vijayalakshmi’s death has once again put the spotlight on the thriving sex-selective abortions and the grim girl-child sex ratio in the state. Nalgonda, in fact, has the third lowest girl-child sex ratio in AP with 921 girls per 1,000 boys, showing a high preference for boys.
The Times of India report of the day quotes:
“Living with her in-laws in Burugadda in Huzurnagar mandal of Nalgonda, Vijaylakshmi was forced to go to a nursing home in Kodad for a sex determination test. When the in-laws found that it is a girl child, the pregnancy was terminated. Activists said that due to the incomplete abortion, Vijayalakshmi started bleeding excessively and developed sepsis. As her condition continued to deteriorate, she was rushed to a private hospital in Hyderabad, five days after the abortion.”
Our team working on the ground interacted with the parents and the husband of the deceased woman, the medical doctor and also a local village medical practitioner as part of the fact-finding exercise.
On the 8th of March (ironically, the International Women’s day!), we submitted our fact-finding report to the District Collector and demanded an immediate action. An FIR was filed against the doctor immediately.
Our team also mobilized the state TV channels who published the fact-finding report calling for justice for Vijayalakshmi and her family.
She had three daughters and had delivered twin girls in her second pregnancy. Her third pregnancy was terminated and when she conceived for the fourth time, the family did not want another girl-child and pushed her to terminate it after determining the sex of the foetus, a friend recalls.
Ms. Malakondaiah, Commissioner, Health and Family Welfare, informed that people could dial ‘104’, a toll-free number set up to take complaints of sex-determination test. “The identity of the informers will be kept confidential”, she says.
In Vijayalakshmi’s case, the Nalgonda District Collector, N Mukteswara Rao, gave orders to file a case against the doctor under Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act. However, the doctor is still not arrested and is going ahead with his life as usual. The Times of India quotes:
“Bowing to the demand of the protesting NGOs, the body was exhumed and post-mortem was performed amidst stiff opposition from some villagers and family members on March 13. The report has not been made public yet. Our campaign team is awaiting the post-mortem report and is determined to pursue the case to its logical end.”
The local-level women’s group leaders and other groups have requested concerned district officials to bring the three girl children of Vijayalakshmi under the ‘Girl Child Protection Scheme’ of the state.
In a related incident, the campaign coordinators, comprising ActionAid staff and our allied networks, visited 8 scanning centres and a hospital in Warangal district. This was as part of a directive this team had received from the Commissioner, Health, Medical and Family Welfare Department to inspect and monitor the scanning centres in 10 districts. Out of the 9 visits so far, the team has found sex-determination pratices taking place in 1 hospital which is not registered under the required law. Impact of this visit has forced the concerned authorities to take notice and the hospital indulging in this malpractice has been temporarily shut down for further investigations.
(The author is part of the team that is following up on this issue in the state. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
*SERP -> Society for Elimination of Rural Povert