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.
Mamata Chatla wanted to continue her studies, but was forced to marry her aunt’s son. After a while her husband became suspicious of her talking on the phone and began to beat Mamata. One day, Mamata’s husband collapsed and died, the whole neighbourhood attacked her and she was forced to return to her parent’s home.
I wanted to study having reached up to class XI. I was also a good student. My aunt’s son was a truck driver and doing very well. She convinced my parents to get me married to him. The fact that he also lived in the same village was another factor due to which I could not resist. He was known to be a good person. He was hardworking and built a pucca house for his family. I also liked him. My parents sold land and with that money got me married. We lived with my mother-inlaw and I was taken very good care of. We had milk, eggs, chicken and meat occasionally. My husband would take me out when he was not driving. We also saw movies together. He gave my father money to build a pucca house. When my daughter was born three years ago, he was happy and did not hold a grudge. He played with her and took good care of her. He liked to eat a lot and drank too. He became obese and I was worried about his health, but he was casual.
He even gave me a mobile phone and would call me often while he was on the road and driving. One night when he came home, he caught me talking to someone on the phone. He became curious and asked me who it was. I said that it was a wrong number and did not know who it was. He became suspicious and took the phone number. He traced it to a boy called Srikant in the neighbourhood. From then onwards, he became very suspicious and would not talk to me properly. His mother too felt that I betrayed him and became cold to me. Everything changed in the house. He said he had forgiven me but could not reconcile to the fact that I was talking to another boy. One day when I was in my mother’s house, he came to pick me up. He saw me talking continuously on the mobile phone for more than an hour. I did not notice him. He waited until I finished the call and dragged me home. He found out that I was talking to Srikant, became enraged and beat me up. He complained to the police about Srikant and his telephone calls. Even as a case was registered in the police station, he brought up the issue before the kulam panchayat. They punished Srikant and settled the matter. I got frightened and could not say anything. For six months, he and his mother tortured me. I had nowhere to go. My father too died in an accident. I lost my mother as well. I cried and felt lonely.
When my husband was getting ready one morning to go to work and washed his face, he had a heart attack and collapsed. His mother and everyone in the neighbourhood attacked and kicked me. They accused me of causing his death and said he had been such a good person and I had not given him even one day of happiness. I was five months pregnant then and wanted to have the baby. But the entire neighbourhood and my mother-in-law ganged up on me and forced me to terminate my pregnancy. I felt sad and was driven out by my mother-inlaw and went to my parents’ home with my daughter. There, my brother married a girl from another caste and so all our kith and kin had boycotted us. Now we have been ostracised by all. I go to work on the farm. But I am unable to join any group. Nobody talks to me. I am alone.’
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’