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.
Turalpati Lakshmi was 12 years old when she was forced to marry a boy the same age. She is now pregnant and faces hunger and lack of health care.
We were both 12 years old when we got married. My father has three wives, 12 children and lives with one wife for six months and they beg together. My husband Lingaiah’s father also has two wives with nine children and they also beg. We had no rituals for our marriage. We only held hands and tied a ‘mangalsutra’ (a thread). After marriage, I have not visited my parents even once. That is the tradition. I cook about four kilos of rice for the family and take care of all the other children who are around my age. I am now five months pregnant and feel hungry most of the time. My elders say that since many of their children were born at home, there is no need to go to the hospital. I have no Aadhaar card and so no food can be claimed from the Anganwadi centre. I was told that my entitlement to food as a pregnant woman will only be when I turn 18 years old.’
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’