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.
Vajja Anitha’s father died when she was 7 years old, having accumulated a lot of debt to pay for his treatment, Anthia’s family fixed marriages for her and her sisters at young ages and against their wishes. Here Anitha tells of her own and her sisters’ experiences of child marriage in India.
I am studying in Class XII. My father died when I was seven years old due to illness. The family accumulated debt for his treatment and sold our land to pay the debts. My elder sister and mother worked as agricultural labourers. My second sister and I would go to school. After school, we did all the work in the house. My eldest sister was married at 14 years. We went in to debt again. My second sister had to stop school and go to work. After two years, our relatives got a match for the second sister and got her married against her wishes. MVF, other authorities and the police came to stop her wedding. The landlord spoke to the police and the wedding was performed secretly at night. She went to her in-laws. Her husband was a drunkard. The mother-in-law and husband harassed her and demanded more dowry and sent her home. My sister refused to go back to the marital house. Now, after two years, the panchayat is negotiating a divorce. The family has not returned Rs.20,000 which they had agreed to return. After the divorce, she was married again into a poor family. Seeing her struggle in poverty, my older sister and brother-in-law are helping her out. I was in Class X, when my marriage was also fixed. I saw the boy and after they went away, I expressed my refusal. My mother and my eldest sister scolded me but my second sister supported me, quoting her own example. But my mother was insistent. I got in touch with MVF and the CRPF and they convinced my mother to stop marriage efforts. I am now studying in Class XII. I work as agricultural labour during the holidays to pay my fees. My mother continues to put pressure but I want to complete my education.
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’