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.
Megavath Rajeshwari was forced to marry at the age of 13 to a 25-year-old man. Her husband works long hours and as a result Rajeshwari is often left alone in the house all day and must care for her child by herself.
I have two older sisters and a younger brother. My parents never went to school. I studied till Class VIII in a government school and stayed in a social welfare hostel. Since my mother was not well, my marriage was fixed when I was 13 and my husband was 25. I resisted, but to no avail. My family brought him to my house and my sisters insisted that I marry him.
My husband’s father passed away and his mother abandoned him and remarried. He drives a JCB vehicle in Ranga Reddy district and both of us moved there. My husband worked from 6 a.m to 10 p.m and was never home. I was soon pregnant. I was also alone all day. I wanted to have a boy as I felt a girl would suffer. I was afraid his mother would harm the baby, so I stayed with my parents for a month after my delivery and returned when I felt safe and confident. I manage my baby and the house entirely on my own. However late, I wait for my husband to come home and have dinner. I even had to learn how to dress properly since I was too young and unaware.
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’