While researching female foeticide and infanticide in India we discovered an amazing story of one woman’s battle to prevent her twin girls from joining the growing number of statistics of girls killed before birth in India.
Mitu married Dr Kamal Khurana, an orthopedic doctor in Delhi, in November 2004. It was an arranged match and, though engaged for nine months, they had hardly met. When she found she was pregnant in January 2005, her husband was elated. An ultrasound at six weeks indicated she was carrying twins. But soon, her mother-in-law began pressuring her to take a sex-determination test. Her refusal was the beginning of a story one might only expect in movies, but one all too common in India.
In a scheme to get Mitu to a hospital for a sex-determination ultrasound, her in-laws fed her cake with eggs, knowing she was allergic. She became very sick and they had the opportunity they had been looking for. Under the guise of an KUB (kidney, urethra and bladder) ultrasound, the radiologist discovered the twins were girls and a campaign to convince Mitu to terminate the pregnancy began.
What followed was an all out war against Mitu and her unborn twin girls that included isolation, starvation and abuse of all kinds.
Around the fourth month, my husband pushed me down a flight of stairs. I started bleeding and was locked in a room. They hoped I’d abort naturally. I managed to call my father in the morning, who told my husband to bring me to their place or he would get the police to do it. My husband gave in. I was prescribed complete bed rest and had to undergo multiple hospitalisations. My daughters were born on August 11, nearly two months premature.
Her husband and relatives did not visit for nine months, and when they finally did, it was to convince her to give up at least one of the girls for adoption. After a time, Mitu’s husband enticed her back home, only to file for divorce after her mother-in-law pushed one of the girls down a flight of stairs in her stroller.
With the support of her parents and others like Bijayalaxmi Nanda of the Campaign Against Pre-Birth Elimination of Females (CAPF), and organizations like the Centre for Social Research, Dr. Mitu Khurana became the first woman to file formal charges against her husband under the Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques Act of 1994.
I get threats saying I’ll be killed or my daughters kidnapped. I had to quit my job because of the pressure. But I will not withdraw the case! I fought to save my girls and I’m the first woman in Delhi to have filed a case under PCPNDT. I’m determined to see justice meted out.
Sonali Khan, communications manager, Breakthrough, Delhi, said, “It’s not going to be easy for Mitu. She is taking on a big hospital, apart from her husband and in-laws. Every hospital has a huge sign against sex determination tests, which means we can’t ask for it and they are bound not to tell us. It is a punishable offence.”
The Shadowline team had an opportunity to meet with Mitu and interview her along with other key players in this landmark case. We will continue to follow the case as we hope for justice for Mitu and her daughters, and, through her, all the women and unborn daughters victimized by female foeticide in India.