Mumbai: Sion Hospital rape centre refuses to treat 3-year-old girl

Sion Hospital doctors insist on an FIR, which is not needed; stressed family waits for 3 hours before taking her back home, changes sexual assault claim to mishap

The one-stop help centre for survivors of sexual violence at Sion Hospital has failed to keep itself abreast of the changes in law. On Wednesday evening, it turned away a girl, aged over 3, who was bleeding from her private parts when it realised that no FIR had been filed in the case. The child’s parents and accompanying constables from the Shivaji Nagar police station sought treatment for over three hours, but they eventually returned home dejected with the bleeding girl.

A file picture of the Sion Hospital
A file picture of the Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital, generally known as the Sion Hospital

According to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, an FIR is not mandatory to initiate a medical examination or treatment.

The family, accompanied by police, rushed the child to the casualty ward of the Sion Hospital, a tertiary healthcare centre, around 6.30pm on Wednesday, claiming that a family member had sexually assaulted her. The doctor on call, however, refused to treat the girl, and referred them to the Rajawadi Hospital, a secondary healthcare facility, said Nitin Chavan, first investigating officer who was with the family. “The doctors asked us to file an FIR before starting a medical examination. But the family showed no interest in sharing any information as soon as it heard that.”

Having reached the end of his shift at the hospital, Chavan was relieved by a woman constable, who took the disoriented family to Rajawadi Hospital around 7.30 pm.

There, the mother refused to let the on-call doctor conduct a thorough examination, said Vidya Thakur, medical superintendent of Rajawadi Hospital. “The child underwent a check-up, but no detailed examination was conducted due to the parents’ opposition. By then, the parents had decided not to pursue the case. We cannot force a family or a victim to undergo a medical examination. We can’t say for sure if the girl had been sexually abused.”

Thakur, however, pointed out that an FIR is not mandatory to begin treatment in a suspected sexual assault case.

The flip-flop
Possibly scared and tired of the ordeal, the family quickly changed its stance. It said the child had been scratched by a cousin while playing at home. “How could we file a report when we didn’t know for sure if the case fell under the POCSO Act? We eventually let the family go,” said a senior Shivaji Nagar police inspector.

Sources said some police officials then alerted NGO Raahat, which works for children and women’s welfare and the rehabilitation of victims of sexual offences.

Manoj Lohiya, additional commissioner of police (eastern region), called the incident a pitiable failure on the part of Sion Hospital. “It is the responsibility of the doctor to check the patient and admit her. Especially in cases under the POCSO Act, it’s necessary to ascertain sexual assault. I will have my officers look into the issue.”

Audry D’mello from Raahat, too, rued the ignorance among doctors. “We have been counselling police officials to handle POCSO Act cases sensitively for the last four years. It’s clear that the family was pressured to change its stance because of the doctors at Sion Hospital. We are trying to locate the family and get the child medical aid.”

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