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.
Sujatha resisted the prospect of marriage but felt that she had to accept at the age of 15. After marriage, Sujata did all the work at home as well as casual labour, being subjected to physical abuse when her husband came home drunk.
I have an elder sister and a younger sister. My parents keep talking about how they have to bear the burden of three girls in the family. My elder sister was married off very early. I had no interest in studies and was severely punished at school one day. I discontinued studies and joined my mother to go for work. The issue of my marriage was brought up daily at home and I resisted it, but finally had to agree when I was 15 years old.
‘I live with my in-laws, do all the work at home and also work as a casual labourer. I had a normal delivery and went to my mother’s house to deliver. My son is one year old. I am back in my mother’s house and full term pregnant again.
My husband is keen to let me continue with further studies. But how can I? He is a casual labourer. He drinks when out with friends and beats me when he comes home drunk — on any issue — say, when I ask him about anything he does, money or drinking or if I did not cook properly. Even if we do not go out together, we visit the temple during festivals and sometimes, my mother’s house.
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’