“I want to study. I want to become a teacher,” said Meenu (name changed), a minor rape victim turned mother of seven-and-half month-old child in an interior village of Sirmour district of Himachal Pradesh.
Call it her strength or innocence, this 16 year-old-girl from a poor background, who was allegedly raped by her school teacher last year and delivered a baby boy in May this year, has beaten the ‘double trauma’ and has shown the will to rebuild self.
Even as she was going through all this, Meenu passed tenth standard with flying colours (77 %marks) in March (2016), and in August, she took re-admission in 11th standard in another school to pursue science (Non-medical) stream.
Meenu’s father is an illiterate daily wager.
She never disclosed about the crime committed on her, allegedly fearing the teacher’s wrath, until her parents came to know on her medical check-up that she was seven months pregnant. (Meenu was taken to a local hospital as she felt pain in the abdomen repeatedly).
It came as a shock everyone at home, but the victim, over 15 years old then, had no idea of the upcoming motherhood.
Meenu’s elder sister now takes care of her child at home, giving her space to study freely. “She is too small to handle a child. Even today, she does not know what she has gone through,” said Meenu’s father. “We want to facilitate her carry on with education to secure better future,” he added.
In this rebuilding, however, Meenu and her family was continuously supported by a local NGO, People’s Action for People in Need (PAPN) based in Sirmaur.
“We fought the orthodox social mindset and the indifferent system at every step. We had to struggle a lot even in getting her re-admission in government school as the authorities were initially reluctant. Once she got the admission, everything went normal,” Kuldeep Verma, who heads the NGO, told The Statesman.
In the village, the field coordinator with PAPN, Sandeep Guleria took lead. “In March end, 2016 we got to know that there was pressure on family to hush up the issue as per traditional system of ‘khumli’ (where the Panchayat elders mediate) and marry the girl early. We counselled the family to lodge an FIR, following which the teacher was arrested and case registered under sections 376, 506 of IPC and POCSO (Protection of Chid from Sexual Offences Act).”
The NGO even helped the parents move High Court to seek further directions into the case, which is in trial now. The Court asked the state to take the responsibility of delivery of the minor girl and give her compensation of Rs 5000 per month. Later, in the final judgement in August, there were directions for Rs 10,000 compensation per month.
Sources said the Women and Child Development department has so far released Rs 50,000 compensation in instalments to her out of total Rs 75000 given to rape victims as per state policy. “There is no clarity on money which was to be given as per court orders. The victim is in dire need of financial security,” said Guleria.