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.
Rajeswari’s two elder sisters are married. She and her two younger sisters have dropped out of school and work on agriculture doing hard labour on cotton and chilli farms as migrant labourers. Rajeswari was forced into marriage at 14years old after which she suffered two miscarriages and physical abuse as a result.
My marriage was fixed when I was 14 years old to my aunt’s son who is a truck driver. I did not want to marry, tried hard to stop it but my parents forced it on me saying that we were poor. I have 2 younger sisters and they could ill afford delaying her marriage. I had two miscarriages and my health is poor, I have aches and pains and am always fatigued. With difficulty my husband took me to a doctor (gynae) who said there is some problem with my uterus and that I need treatment. There is so much violence from my mother-in law and father-in-law for not bearing a child - they pull my hair, bang my head against the wall, push me and knock my head with their knuckles. I shout back and scream but it has no effect on them. They are so angry and disappointed that I do not have children.
I could not bear their abuses and was feeling mentally ill. It is then that my husband shifted them out of our house and put them in a tin shed next to ours. We have a common kitchen and their abuses continue relentlessly. I have shared my plight in the women’s group but they tell me that all my problems will be resolved once I have children. I should adjust and carry on with life. I decided to join the Child Rights Protection Forum to campaign against child marriages. My in-laws do not like this either, but it has given me a lot of strength to talk about myself and motivate other girls not to succumb to pressures of early marriage.
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’