Dr. Mitu Khuranaâ€™s final court date for custody of her children is approaching. Some of you may remember Mituâ€™s story, but for those who don’t, I have added in background detail.
Dr. Mitu Khurana is a brave woman. She struggled against her husband and her in-laws years ago when she was pregnant. They slipped eggs into her food, knowing she was allergic to them. Other times they denied her food and water. Her crime? To have become pregnant with two daughters and refused to abort them. In August 2005 she gave birth, but the pressure did not stop. It was suggested that she give her children up for adoption, while her mother-in-law once shoved her then four month old daughter down the stairs.
In March 2008 Dr. Mitu was thrown out of her house by her husband, who is also a doctor. The next month she went back to their home only to discover that while ill (and in hospital), doctors had illegally performed a test to determine the sex of the foetus. Sex determination tests are illegal in India, as a response to the major imbalance between the sexes. There are 107 men for every 100 women in India, which translates to a gap of tens of millions. This is largely the result of abortion and the killing of female children. Many women go along with these tests, or even instigate them, but Dr. Mitu did not stay silent. She spoke out and filed a complaint with the Womenâ€™s Commission and various NGOs, and became the first woman to file a complaint under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC-PNDT) Act in Delhi.
Her case soon became a cause celebre and was widely covered in the Indian media. Yet she still fears for the safety of her daughters. As Rita Banerji, the founder and chief administrator of The 50 Million Missing: A Campaign Against India’s Female Genocide (an NGO) pointed out to me:
It is interesting that when the media in India covers Mitu’s case they hover around the hospital gates or her in-laws house. The logical thing to do would be to go to the courts and the government offices for those are the offices with authority to implement laws and book violators. But the media does not approach them — and the reason I am told is that the government does not want to answer to cases like this!
Since Dr. Mitu launched her case, she has been harassed and has had to fight every step of the way in order to get the authorities to do what they are supposed to. When she spoke to a senior official he tried to stop her:
Before filing the case I had met Dr Puneet Bedi, a member of the Core Monitoring Committee. He did not take me seriously. Also, he warned me that if I file a case, the concerned hospital, where the sex determination was done without my knowledge, would threaten and offer me bribes and I would be forced to settle the case with my husband and close it.
Some politicians in Delhi are sympathetic, but she still has to struggle against a mentality that values boys over girls. Her husband and his family have yet to be charged with anything, and her daughters are still at risk. A high court judge even tried to get her to reconcile with her husband, despite the threat of violence against her children. Other people, including some workmates, have also encouraged her to drop the case. One person told her to continue to get pregnant until she has a son for her husband.
Now her husband and in-laws are after her daughters. For a long while they wanted nothing to do with the young girls, but late last year her husband filed a custody case. Dr. Mitu believes that they only want custody as a way of putting pressure on her to drop her other cases. Her daughters currently live with her, and the case will be decided on 20th February. If the court rules in favour of the father, Dr. Mitu fears she will never see her daughters alive again.
To support Mitu, please contact the Indian embassy to make your views known, or leave messages on this website.