It is estimated that almost 8 million people are living in conditions of modern slavery in India (GSI 2018). The skewed sex ratio in some regions of India has fuelled the trafficking and selling of women and young girls as brides within India. Women are reportedly sold off into marriage by their families, sometimes at a young age, and end up enduring severe abuse, rape and exploitation by their husbands. It is also reported that women and girls from impoverished backgrounds have been lured by promises of marriage by younger men from urban areas, then forced into sex work once married.
Muttam Jyostna was 15 years old when she met a boy from the same caste as her and from a known family. Their parents decided to get them married. However, after the marriage Muttam was unable to do anything without the permission of her mother-in-law. Her food was restricted and she was subjected to physical abuse from her husband.
I was begging at a nearby mosque. I was about 13 years old and fell in love with a boy who was also begging near the mosque. We went for movies, ate ice cream and had fun. I would keep part of what I got from begging and give my mother the rest. Soon my mother found out about this from my younger sister, who also came with me to beg. She stopped us both from begging.
After about a year, I started to work as a helper in a garments store. I earned Rs.3,000 per month of which I kept Rs.1,000 with myself. I made friends with a boy at the store and liked being with him. Again, my mother found out and stopped me from work. I was at home and had nothing much to do after washing vessels, cooking and other domestic chores. I would wander around the neighbourhood and this is when I got interested in another boy. We met every day, day after day, and were very fond of each other. As he was also a Dalit and from the same caste and from a known family, our parents decided to get us married.’
‘I was 15 years old then. After marriage, we were living with the boy’s parents and his elder sister in a small village. I could not do anything without permission from my mother-in-law. At home, I thought my mother was strict since she always scolded me. But now I can see the difference. I am not allowed to eat as much food as I want or dress up well. My husband stopped taking me out for movies or to the market. He began to drink and beat me up without any reason. I was being scolded even after working hard - doing all the cooking, fetching water and firewood and other domestic work. The tension in the house was unbearable and I forced him to shift back to the city near my mother’s house. In the city I went back to working in a shop, he went for casual work. My husband continues to drink, comes home late and beats me up. He never takes me out. He does not bring friends home nor take me to meet them. After two years of marriage, I delivered a baby girl. My husband wanted a boy and was disappointed. But he took care of me during my pregnancy. My delivery was in a hospital close to mother’s house. My mother is a big support to me as I leave my baby with her when I go to work?
Narrative provided by M Venkatarangaiya Foundation in their report ‘…and they never lived happily ever after. The battle for justice goes on: Voices of married girls in Telangana’