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Dandu Padma

2018 (Narrative date)

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. 

Dandu Padma wanted to continue her studies but was tricked by her brother in to marrying her cousin at the age of 16. Here she recounts the reactions of her parents and in-laws to the marriage.

I resisted my parents’ plan to get me married. I completed Class X, was 16 years old and wanted to study further. They did not listen and went ahead making arrangements, sent the dowry money and fixed the date of marriage. My brother understood that I wanted to study, argued with my parents and got the marriage cancelled. I was grateful to him and began to move around with his friends who also supported my decision not to get married. My brother and his friends were going on a picnic to a temple town and asked me to join them. I gladly agreed. At the temple, I saw that there was a well laid out space for conducting marriages. My brother called the priest and introduced me and my 13-year-old cousin as the bride and groom. I was taken aback. Even before I could protest, the priest solemnised our marriage and the bridegroom tied the ‘mangalsutra.’ I felt so betrayed. The boy said that he had always been in love with me and wanted to marry me. My brother tried to convince me that it was a good match as he was the only son and his mother was my aunt (father’s sister)and therefore, I would be taken good care of. What could I do? My marriage was formalised in a temple. So I accepted this and we went to my parents’ house as a newly married couple. They were aghast and would not let us enter the house. My mother yelled at me and asked us to get out and not show my face ever. I did not want to explain how it happened and tell on my brother. He and his friends remained silent. We simply walked out and went to his mother. She also did not let us in. She accused me of enticing and luring her only son, a young boy into marriage. She said that I should leave him and marry someone else. The boy decided to walk out of the house with me. My mother-in-law brought the matter to the kulam panchayat. They decided not to acknowledge the marriage and advised that I go back to the match I had earlier declined. But the boy was stubborn. He said he would take care of me as a husband and would not accept their decision. Only then was I allowed into my mother-in-law’s house. My husband takes good care of me. We go to work together. But my mother-in-law taunts me all the time for marrying her only son who is so young. I now have a daughter and she is three years old. My mother-in-law does not carry her or do anything for her. I have not gone home or contacted my parents. Often, I feel helpless as I do not have support from my in-laws nor my parents. My husband who is 16 years old is my sole support.