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.
At the age of 16 Saradamma was forced to marry. After the marriage, she was forced to undertake all the domestic work and when she became pregnant was not provided with proper medical care
My mother put pressure on me to get married since the time I attained puberty. My resistance worked for two years but my parents and relatives found an alliance when I was 16 years old. After our marriage, my in-laws, older brother of my husband and his wife and the two of us set up separate establishments. The goats were evenly distributed. We got 70 goats as our share and my husband and I would take them for grazing. I also had to do all the domestic chores. Needless to say, my workload has increased. Soon after I became pregnant, it was getting increasingly difficult to work. There was no help and I could not even complain. I did not consult a doctor. There was no proper medical advice. I went to my mother’s house for delivery. At the time of delivery, I had severe fits along with labour pains on my way to the hospital. There was no proper transport and I got into a rickety trolley that actually carries carcasses of goats to the market. The road was very bumpy and the pains had intensified by the time I reached the hospital. The doctors conducted a caesarean and the baby boy who was in coma was kept in the ICU and died after a week. My mother had to spend one lakh for my treatment and it caused us all immense sorrow.
My husband was very angry and scolded me that I went against his wishes to my mother’s house. He took me back home and I was pregnant again. He didn’t allow either his mother or my mother to interfere. He took good care and I had a safe and successful delivery. He is not unhappy that it is a girl and said that as long as the child is healthy, it should not matter. I now advise my neighbours not to go to their mother’s place for delivery but to go only after the delivery, or they will be scolded all their lives if something goes wrong.
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’