Court puts on hold HIV decision

A court in India’s Rajasthan state has put on hold a controversial decision by a lower court denying an HIV-positive woman the custody of her daughter.

Last week, a court in Jaipur ruled that the mother was unfit to look after her nine-year-old girl on account of her HIV-positive status.

The woman contracted the virus from her husband who died of Aids in 2003.

She was thrown out of the house by her in-laws last year and has since been fighting to get her daughter’s custody.

“Because of her HIV-positive status, it cannot be said that the petitioner will be able to look after her minor daughter,” the lower court magistrate had said in his ruling.

“It is not in the interest of the child that she remains with her mother. It is in her interest to stay with her grand-parents,” the magistrate said.


Speaking to the BBC, the petitioner said she would continue to fight for her daughter’s rights.

Appalled women’s right organisations in Rajasthan protested against the order saying the woman, the widow of a soldier, deserved better.

Her lawyer, Ajay Kumar Jain, says the court even turned down the appeal to not reveal her identity.

“This is against the Supreme Court order to protect the identity of those suffering from HIV-Aids,” Mr Jain said.

The district court has now put on hold the lower court’s order and set 11 October as the date for hearing the case.

One woman who with HIV-affected women in Rajasthan, Sushila, says at least 300 women in the state are facing similar problems.

“Most of them are not educated and they don’t know that they have rights. These widows are thrown out by their families and are forced to live alone. We are fighting for them,” she says.

About 2.5m people in India have the HIV virus – 40% of those are women, according to UN-backed government figures.

There is a lot of stigma attached to HIV and Aids in India and those with the virus can face discrimination, including being ostracised and denied access to schools and hospitals.

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