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.
Tallapalli Shailaja was forced to marry a man she believed had land and ran a business, however once they were married, she learned he was a car driver and had been lied to. Shailaja was subjected to physical abuse daily by her husband but was unable to obtain a divorce from the panchayat.
I am the only daughter. My father left my mother and I grew up with a loving grandmother and my mother. I had reached Class XII and an aunt fixed my marriage. We were told that the boy has land and runs a taxi business. When I got married, I found that he was only a car driver and they had lied. Since I did not know how to cook well or perform domestic chores efficiently, my mother-in-law was impatient with me. Each day our relationship became sourer and she started to complain to my husband. I could not defend myself and he became wild with me. He would come home drunk and lost all sense of decency. One night, my mother-in-law went to somebody’s house while I fell asleep. She knocked the door but since I was asleep, I could not hear her. Next morning she had a fight with me and complained to her son that I had deliberately locked her out. My husband beat me up. This time I shouted back and asked what his mother was doing outside her house, so late in the night. He did not take this kindly and forced me to go to my mother’s house. He announced that I had conceived, but also lost his temper and beat up my mother and grandparents. My family lodged a complaint against him at the police station.
He in turn called for a kulam panchayat since we had complained against him at the police station. The panchayat decided that my mother would sell land and pay a penalty of Rs.2 lakh to my husband. After a ten-day trial, my mother agreed to give land which was in my name but did not approve its sale. My husband did not agree and left me behind with my mother. I delivered a girl baby and my mother had a cradle ceremony to celebrate. My husband came and beat me up in front of everyone. I do not want to go and live with him. My mother is convinced that she will never send me to live with him. The neighbours speak adversely about me since they feel that I left my husband.
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’