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.
Byagari Anitha wanted to continue her studies, but was forced to marry a boy from her village after her father became terminally ill. Though the authorities attempted to intervene, Byagari’s family forced her to marry in a secret ceremony against her will.
I regret being married. I was the only child and studying in class VII. My father was terminally ill and my family decided to marry me to a boy from the same village. I wanted to study. MVF got to know about this and filed a case. The police and officials met with both families and all agreed not to get us married and abide by the law. But three days after the actual date of wedding, they got me married in a secret ceremony, in a temple in another village. I was asked to give a statement at the police station, that the decision to marry was my personal choice and I was not forced into the marriage. My parents also pleaded with the sarpanch and paid him by selling gold and silver. The sarpanch bribed the police and got the case closed.
My mother-in-law tortured and hit me for not getting enough dowry. The condition in the house was unbearable. I worked a lot through my pregnancy and never had enough food to eat. My husband too did not care to support me. He would come home drunk and beat me. After one year of marriage, I became pregnant and went home for my delivery. I had a caesarian and delivered a baby girl. My mother was very worried for my health and persuaded my husband to live separately from his parents. My house is close to my mother-in-law’s and she continues to control me. She raises a hue and cry when my mother comes to visit me, so much so that my mother has stopped coming home. Fortunately my husband now takes good care of me.
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’