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.
Kothagudem Madhavi was under great pressure to get married while her father was still alive after his drinking had caused him injury. With the help of the Child Protection Committee Madhavi was able to put off her marriage until she was of legal age.
When I was in Class X, my marriage was fixed to Srinivas from Sadasivpet. My father is a drunkard and came home with bruises and wounds. My grandparents took care of us. My sister’s marriage was conducted by them and they wanted to settle my marriage too, while they were able. Seeing my sister’s struggle, I refused to marry. But during one of his bouts of drinking, my father had a fall and was injured and so the pressure grew to get married while he was still alive.
I was also on the village committees. I brought up the issue of my marriage in a committee but I received no support because of the plight of my father and grandparents. I was feeling hopeless.
Three cases of child marriage were fixed on the same day since it was auspicious. The Child Protection Committee and some others questioned the gram panchayat about their inability to stop child marriages in the village. They accused the sarpanch of allowing child marriages despite orders to stop them. The sarpanch had a meeting with all of them and it was decided to prevent these marriages. The schoolteacher spoke to the bridegrooms and convinced them to wait until the girls attained 18 years of age. I was also counseled to talk to the boy about my desire to finish Class XII and not marry until I attain legal age. He said it would mean long bondage if he had to wait for me to turn 18. But he also calls me to give me support to study well and do well in my exams. I am now studying in Class XII.
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’