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.
Medamani Nagamma was forced to marry at a young age. Within the marriage she was forced to do housework and raped by her husband. After a complicated pregnancy it was suggested that she undergo sterilisation.
I was studying in Class VI and married even before attaining puberty. I was made to cook, sweep, fetch water and clean the sheep shed which had 200 sheep. My mother-in-law would not let me sit even for a minute.
After six months, I got my periods and since then my real worries began. My husband forced himself on me. He bit me, scratched me and was so aggressive each night. I was so scared. My mother-in-law would anxiously enquire if I had missed my period. I did not understand much. It seems when his first wife left him, she spread rumours that he was impotent. I was under pressure from my mother-in-law and husband’s sister who together beat me up and accused me of being barren and childless.
I could not complain to anyone and was totally isolated. How could I tell my mother that I was being tortured when they gave 70 grams of gold, silver and Rs 1.5 lakh as dowry?
To their relief, I was pregnant within four months after my puberty. I was very weak since I had no rest and no food to eat. I went home for my delivery. The doctor scolded me and my mother for such an early pregnancy. I had a caesarean and delivered a baby girl. I went back to my in-laws with the baby.
The entire family and my husband travelled to faraway places with the sheep for days together. I joined them too with my baby, tying her to a cloth cradle on the tree and managing somehow. There was no help at all. They were as abusive as ever. Within two months, I conceived again. I was frequently left behind while the family went away with the sheep because I was pregnant. I had to work, earn wages, take care of my baby and do all the domestic chores. I had no support, no friends and became very weak.
Finally, I was sent home to my mother’s. The doctor scolded me again. He said that I was anaemic and may not even survive the pregnancy. I had a caesarean and delivered a baby boy. She convinced me that I had to undergo sterilisation after six months. I raised the issue with my husband. He agreed to this immediately. He has softened a bit and I am confident that I can change him to become a better person. He will not be like my father who is an alcoholic and violent, torturing my mother and all of us.
My sister is in Class VII at KGBV and I will protect her with all my might to complete her education and not be forced to get married
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’