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Worried By Increasing Child Pregnancies & Easy Access To Porn, Kerala High Court Stresses Need For Proper Sex Education

Hannah M Varghese
22 July 2022 4:41 AM GMT
Worried By Increasing Child Pregnancies & Easy Access To Porn, Kerala High Court Stresses Need For Proper Sex Education
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The Court also called for educating the youngsters on the safe use of the internet and social media.

The Kerala High Court on Thursday expressed its concerns over the glaring absence of adequate sex education in schools amid the rising number of child pregnancies, which are, unfortunately, often a result of sexual abuse by close relatives. Justice V.G. Arun thereby asked the authorities to reconsider the sex education and safe use of the internet and social media being imparted at...

The Kerala High Court on Thursday expressed its concerns over the glaring absence of adequate sex education in schools amid the rising number of child pregnancies, which are, unfortunately, often a result of sexual abuse by close relatives. 

Justice V.G. Arun thereby asked the authorities to reconsider the sex education and safe use of the internet and social media being imparted at the schools in the State. 

"I am compelled to express concern at the increasing number of child pregnancies, in which, at least some cases involve close relatives. In my opinion, it is time for the authorities to take a re-look at the sexual education being imparted in our schools. The easy availability of porn on the internet can mislead the juvenile mind of youngsters and give them wrong ideas. Educating our children about the safe use of the internet and social media is absolutely essential."

The Court also recorded that another Bench was considering this issue in a bail application where certain directions were intended to be issued to ensure better awareness of the concerned statutes.

"The learned Judge has also noted that the educational machinery of the State has fallen woefully short in imparting the required awareness to young children about the consequence of sexual overtures," the Court recalled. 

The Court was considering a plea moved by the mother of a 13-year-old girl who was sexually abused by her minor sibling and thereby pregnant by 30 weeks. 

The physical strain of carrying a pregnancy at such a young age and the psychological impact and consequent mental stress were projected as reasons for seeking the Court's intervention to medically terminate the pregnancy. The petitioner was represented by Advocate Shameena Salahudheen.

"The young girl was not even aware of her pregnancy, which fact came to light only when the petitioner took the girl to a doctor when she complained of abdominal pain and of having missed her periods for more than two months. Physical examination, followed by a laboratory test, revealed that the girl was pregnant by 30 weeks. Immediately, the girl, represented by her hapless mother, rushed to this Court."

Government Pleader S. Appu submitted that under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act,  the maximum permissible gestational period is 24 weeks while in this case, the pregnancy had crossed 30 weeks. He pointed out that an exemption is only available in cases where the termination is necessitated by the diagnosis of any substantial, foetal abnormality by a Medical Board. 

The Court found that specific categories of women are considered eligible for termination of pregnancy under Section 3(2)(b) of the Act, including survivors of sexual assault or rape, or incest, as also minors. In the case at hand, the victim was a rape survivor and a minor, and incest was also involved.

"I lean in favour of the victim while being conscious of the rights of the unborn baby. It is pertinent to note that a woman's right to make reproductive choices is recognised as part of her personal liberty under Article 21, subject of course to reasonable restrictions."

The Single Judge found that the courts had often leaned in favour of permitting medical termination of pregnancies even beyond the permissible limit considering the age of the survivor.

Notably, the same bench had recently come to the assistance of another 15-year-old rape survivor by allowing her to undergo medical termination of her 24 weeks pregnancy. 

Therefore, considering the physical difficulties, mental agony and opinion of the Medical Board, Justice Arun was inclined to allow medical termination of the pregnancy. 

Accordingly, the petitioner was permitted to get the victim girl's pregnancy terminated at a Government Hospital with an undertaking authorising to conduct the surgery at her risk. 

The Court also held that if the baby is alive at birth, the hospital shall ensure that the baby is offered the best medical treatment available. Similarly, if the petitioner is not willing to assume responsibility for the baby, the State and its agencies shall assume full responsibility and offer medical support and facilities to the child.

Case Title: X v. Union of India & Ors. 

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Ker) 368

Click Here To Read/Download The Order

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