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“Any other interpretation (of rape) would have the effect of compelling a woman to give birth to and raise a child with a partner who inflicts mental and physical harm upon her,” the Supreme Court observed.

New Delhi: The  Supreme Court Thursday ruled that irrespective of their marital status, all women are entitled to safe and legal abortion. A bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud noted that for the sole purpose of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, the meaning of rape must include marital rape.

Here’s what the Supreme Court said in its ruling:

 “If Rule 3B(c) is understood as only for married women, it would perpetuate the stereotype that only married women indulge in sexual activities. This is not constitutionally sustainable. The artificial distinction between married and unmarried women cannot be sustained. Women must have autonomy to have free exercise of these rights.”

“We would be remiss in not recognising that intimate partner violence is the reality and can take the form of rape. The misconception that strangers are exclusively or almost exclusively responsible for sex and gender-based violence is a deeply regrettable one.”

Object of Section 3(2)(b) of MTP Act allowing woman to undergo abortion after 20-24 weeks..including only married and excluding unmarried woman will be violative of Article 14 (of the Constitution)”.

“The meaning of rape must therefore be understood as including marital rape solely for the purpose of the MTP Act and any other rules and regulations framed thereunder. Any other interpretation would have the effect of compelling a woman to give birth to and raise a child with a partner who inflicts mental and physical harm upon her.”

The apex court also noted that women need not seek formal legal proceedings to prove the “factum of sexual assault or rape”. “…there is no requirement that the instance may be registered or the allegation of rape may be proved before a court of law or some other forum before it can be construed true for the purpose of the MTP Act. Such a requirement would be in conflict with the purpose of the MTP Act,” it said.

The rights of reproductive autonomy give an unmarried woman similar rights as a married woman.”

State must ensure reproduction and safe sex is disseminated to all segments of the public to avoid unwanted pregnancies. The impact of continuing unwanted pregnancy on a woman has to take into account the social realities,” the Bar and Bench quoted the apex court as saying.

The case pertains to a 25-year-old unmarried woman who was permitted to terminate her pregnancy of 24 weeks by the Supreme Court in July. The woman had approached the apex court after the High Court denied her the relief. She had told the court that the pregnancy was a result of a consensual relationship, and that she decided to terminate the pregnancy as her relationship had failed.

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