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.
Chittamma was forced to marry her cousin when she was 17 years old. Though Chittamma goes out for wage work, everything she earns is given to her husband and she does not have enough food to eat.
I studied up to Class V and was married at 17 years. My parents are casual labourers. I dropped out of school as my close friend also dropped out. Both of us went to work together until she got married. My father was very strict and we feared him a lot. We had no say in any matter. So I agreed when my marriage was fixed with my cousin.
After marriage, I joined a large family with my husband’s two married brothers and their wives, his unmarried younger brother and parents. We have a small hut with two rooms and live in this crowded space together. All the brothers have children. Each couple takes care of their own needs. There is no interference from the mother-in-law.
We have a farm and all of us work on the farm during season and also do independent wage work. There is always tension on how much we contributed as labour, how to divide the yield and earnings, among the daughters-in-law. I have some peace only when I go on wage work. I don’t go out anywhere else and have no friends. I get scolded if I am seen resting for even five minutes. I never have enough food to eat. I give whatever I earn to my husband. I am entirely dependent on him for any purchases. He buys nothing for his son.
I conceived 15 months after my marriage and delivered a baby boy. I was weak, emaciated and anaemic and when I told my husband, he was indifferent. I went to the primary health centre (PHC) and they gave me some injections and said that I should eat well and rest. My husband left me at my mother’s home when I was seven months pregnant and returned to him when my son was five months old. I am still very weak and tired. I do not have enough food to eat.
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’