Dr. Mitu Khurana: the defender of India’s baby girls
by Alanna Gomez
Fri Nov 23 3:03 PM EST
November 23, 2012 – One of the most remarkable stories shared in the new documentary “It’s a Girl” is that of Dr. Mitu Khurana and her daughters. Their story is shocking and distressing, exposing how the prejudice against female children permeates all levels of Indian society, while also being a testimony to the great love that a mother has for her children and how she can rise above her own fears to protect them.
In the fall of 2004, Dr. Khurana, a pediatrician, was married to Dr. Kamal Khurana, an orthopedic surgeon in Delhi, India. Shortly after, her in-laws started making demands for additions to her dowry – a new car, more jewelry, an apartment. They abused her when these demands weren’t met by Mitu’s parents.
In January of 2005, Mitu became pregnant. Upon hearing the news, her husband was initially very happy. That is, until her mother-in-law started demanding that a sex determination test be done. Mitu discovered she was carrying twins in February. If they were girls, her in-laws were determined that she should have an abortion of at least one but preferably both babies.
In an attempt to limit the high rate of sex-selective abortions committed against girls in India, the government has outlawed the sex determination test. Mitu refused to have the tests done and was severely persecuted by her husband and in-laws for her stubbornness. Finally, they locked her in a room and devised a plan. Mitu is allergic to eggs, so they baked a cake and told her it was egg-free, forcing her to eat it. That evening, she developed severe allergic symptoms but was denied medical aid until the next morning when she was brought to the hospital.
At the hospital, she was admitted to the labour room, even though she was only 16 weeks pregnant. The doctor who saw her ordered a series of tests, including ultrasound scans of her kidneys. They sedated Mitu and brought her to the ultrasound room where the doctor ended up doing a full fetal scan – revealing that she was carrying two baby girls.
Shortly after, she was discharged and sent home. The pressure was on for Mitu to consent to have an abortion. Mitu had been put on bed rest but her sister-in-law repeatedly made her clean the floors, in hopes of inducing a miscarriage. During an argument, her husband pushed her down a flight of stairs, then locked her in a room. Bruised and bleeding, she managed to call her father. Mitu told him that he had given her to death rather than marriage. He picked her up and brought her home the next morning.
Mitu was in and out of the hospital for the next couple months, while her in-laws refused to be in contact with her. When she gave birth, two months premature, Mitu was determined to help her in-laws find at least some love for her two innocent little girls, wanting the girls to have a father. She moved back in to her husband’s home.
Things didn’t improve. When the babies were four months old, one was thrown down a flight of stairs. Fortunately, Mitu was close by and caught her before there was serious harm done. The abuse continued for two more years as it became clear that Mitu’s in-laws were not willing to accept the girls.
When Mitu’s sister-in-law was about to be married, the dowry harassment began again as Mitu’s in-laws demanded more from her parents, who refused to pay. After the wedding, it only took two months before Mitu’s sister-in-law was back home, filing dowry harassment and domestic abuse against her husband. She got a divorce.
At this point, Mitu was no longer welcome in her husband’s home. He hacked into her e-mail account and sent fake love letters to her brother-in-law to defame her, wanting a divorce so he could re-marry and have a son. His mother insisted on keeping all Mitu’s dowry jewelry, which Mitu handed over, considering it a small price to pay for her daughters to have a stable home. Her husband took separate accommodations and Mitu was thrown out into the night.
Mitu filed a complaint under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PC&PNDT Act) against her husband as well as the doctors and the hospital that preformed the illegal sex-determination test. She was the first woman to do so in Delhi, more than 10 years after the Act was first passed. Its purpose is to regulate and prevent the mis-use of diagnostic tests. Mitu was told by the official on the case that she should “stop wasting her life and give her husband a son if he wanted one.” To this day, no charges have actually been laid.
To pressure her, her husband filed a custody claim against her, having an apparent sudden change of heart about wanting the girls. Mitu lost her job and is still being harassed because she filed a suit against a big hospital. Most people feel she was in the wrong and her in-laws were justified in their desire for a boy.
Mitu continues to fight for her daughters and raises them in her parent’s home. Her father has taken on twice the number of hours at work to support them. She is now a prominent activist against female gendercide in India, attempting to bring these horrific practices to an end. Her daughters are blessed to have a such courageous mother who loves them so deeply- not because they are girls, or despite that fact that they are girls, but because they are her children.