A paediatrician who has accused her husband of tricking her into revealing the sex of her unborn girl twins and then putting pressure on her to abort them is waging a landmark legal battle against him in India’s high court.
Mitu Khurana, a 39-year-old doctor from the Rajasthani city of Jaipur, refused to abort the two girls and has become a cause celebre for campaigners against sex-selective abortions that are at “emergency” levels in parts of India.
Mrs Khurana is taking legal action against her husband who she claims asked doctors to take a surreptitious ultrasound of her unborn twins while she was in hospital in 2004 suffering from a stomach complaint.
“If, despite all the evidence I have, the accused are allowed to escape then no other women will ever try to prosecute for this type of crime,” Mrs Khurana said. “Ultrasounds in India always happen behind closed doors because every doctor knows it’s a crime and will never give the results in writing.”
Her husband, Dr Kamal Khurana, denies the charges, which are the first of their kind to be brought under a law that bans gender testing of foetuses.
The preference for boys over girls in India for economic and social reasons has sharply skewed gender ratios, with one study estimating 12 million girls had been aborted in 30 years. Last year the United Nations noted that the dwindling number of Indian girls had reached “emergency proportions” and was contributing to violent sex crimes against women. An investigation of 89 hospitals in Delhi found huge sex discrepancies in birth rates. One clinic delivered just 285 girls for every 1,000 boys.
Mrs Khurana’s case, which was recently thrown out by a lower court due to lack of evidence, implicates not only her husband, Kamal, but also the Jaipur Golden Hospital.
According to the court papers, Mrs Khurana alleges that she was taken to hospital after having an allergic reaction to some food. After being given painkillers and sedatives, Mrs Khurana alleges that her husband took her to have a kidney scan and, while she was sedated, colluded with hospital staff to carry out an illegal gender test on her unborn twins.
She claims that from the moment she was discharged from hospital, her husband began to pester her to have an abortion, at times violently. She also claimed that Mr Khurana pushed her, causing her to fall down the stairs.The fall prompted her to develop pain in the abdomen and, when she requested medical help, her husband confined her to a room with “the intention to induce abortion”.
Mrs Khurana’s parents took her to hospital the following morning where she rested for four days. Her twins, Guddu and Pari, were eventually born prematurely at 31 weeks’ gestation and are now 10 years old.