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.
With the authorities unable to prevent it, Kommu Sandya was married at 13 years old. She became pregnant and very ill within three months, having to abort the pregnancy at great cost to her parents. Though she became pregnant again and gave birth to a boy, her mother-in-law continues to physical and verbally abuse both Kommu Sandya and her children.
I have one older sister and a younger sister. I dropped out in Class V and was married at 13 years,soon after attaining puberty. The anganwadi workers unsuccessfully tried to stop my marriage. Within three months, I became pregnant and was very ill. My mother took me to the hospital where the doctor said that I had an underdeveloped foetus, heavy bleeding and advised abortion —but still refused to abort as it was too risky. My body was entirely swollen with severe bleeding and had an odour, and nobody could touch me. I was taken to a hospital in Khammam which demanded one lakh rupees for conducting the abortion. My parents sold land for my treatment. The doctor said I had survived by luck and I would need rest and good food. For six months, I stayed with mother. My mother-in-law refused to take me back as she thought I would never be able to have more children. The kulam panchayat sat together and resolved that I join my husband. I was pregnant again after a year. Due to complications, I had to frequently visit the hospital and all the expenses were borne by my parents. The doctor advised bed rest and I gave birth to a son who is now one-and-a-half years old. After the delivery, my mother in-law was angry since her daughter could not deliver a boy, but I did. She shows her anger to the child, always scolds him and never holds him with love. When I brought this up with my husband, he asked me not to argue with her.
My elder sister has returned to my parents’ home with two children because of an abusive, alcoholic husband and his mother who terrorised her. I don’t want to be a burden on my parents since they are already fully supporting my sister with medical aid, daily needs, and clothes.
I have now conceived for the third time and in the sixth month of my pregnancy. Doctors keep advising me to eat and rest as I have no blood. Even now, my mother in-law continues to scold and beat me and sometimes does not give me food. My father-in-law says he is helpless and that I have to be patient. Recently she threw my things out and asked me to live separately because my husband supported me in an argument. She refused to listen when my neighbours intervened and told my mother in-law that she is wrong.
I don’t know what ‘sukham’ is. There is no happiness or comfort. I will have to suffer. It is my karma. Life is an unending lonely battle’.
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’