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.
Pallavi was forced to marry at the age of 13, giving birth to a baby boy just a year later. After the birth of her son Pallavi worked long hours in the house and in the field, and was subjected to physical abuse by her husband. Pavalli now has 3 sons. Having had no health care through her pregnancies, she is weak, undernourished and depressed. She thinks only suicide will release her.
I did not want to get married. I was in Class VII and wanted to study more. My parents threatened me and said that I could leave the house if I did not listen to them. I pleaded with them. I told them that I would stop school and work to earn wages and help them. They did not pay heed. I was just about 13 when I was married to a 22-year-old man. In the first year, my husband was all right. He would often take me to my mothers’ house. I felt comfortable and did not complain or mind when my mother-in-law forced me to work and scolded me for not working properly. After a year of marriage, I delivered a baby boy. It was a normal delivery and my mother took me to my in-laws. I stopped frequenting my mother’s house because it was difficult with my child. I started doing all the work in the house, going to the fields to work, returning home and working again. There was no rest. I asked him to buy me some trinkets and he got very angry with me, thinking that I was nagging him. He became suspicious and accused me of infidelity. He did not like me talking to the neighbours or laughing. He started to abuse me physically. His mother too joined in beating me up and silencing me. When I questioned him, he threatened to remarry and send me to my mothers’ house.
Amidst this tension, I conceived twice again and now have three sons. All through my pregnancies, there was no health care. The anganwadi workers used to give some eggs every fortnight to take home, but which I could never consume. I became weak and had health issues but my husband would not take me to the doctor. My condition is worsening. The anganwadi worker is giving me some tablets for my problem but there is no proper treatment. When I ask for help, my husband does not respond or quarrels with me. After each quarrel, I am sent away to my mother and return after some reconciliation. His violence has become so unbearable that I told my mother about his behaviour. She said that this was our lot and we should move on and scolded me for not adjusting. He does not give me any money or get anything for children. He has an illicit relationship with another woman and if I question him about it, he beats me up and the children. I am now in my mother’s house with my sons. My parents are very poor but I will not go back.
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’