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.
Sangeetha was sixteen years old when a relative proposed her married to a twenty-nine-year-old man. Despite seeking help from an organisation and wanting to remain in education, Sangeetha was married in a hurry.
I belong to a family having five daughters without any son. My family is very poor and I am the eldest daughter. At the period of the incident I was in 8th standard. One of my relatives gave a proposal to my guardians regarding my marriage. At that time, my husband was 29 years old and it was his second marriage. His first wife died because of some serious disease before two years. As they weren't demanding dowry from our guardian, the proposal was accepted without asking any question to me. I wasn't in a position to express my interest and I felt myself helpless as my mother also not supported me. Then, I discussed this matter with my friends and neighbours. My stand was that I am ready to marry that person but not at that time. I wanted to continue my study up to metric and I would marry only after completing the age of 18 - 19 years. I needed someone's help who could make my parents understand my thinking.
Fortunately, someone from our community informed an organization of my predicament. They started enquiring with the help of police but couldn't get to me because of my parents refusal. On the eve of my marriage which happened on 2nd June 2006, they opposed. But as it was taking place in Bhairavnath Temple, Rajatalab, the people from our community supported my parents and the marriage was completed in a hurry.
After marriage, members of the voluntary organisation carried out an inquiry with the help of the police. My real age was hidden by my parents but when asked, I related the real story and refused to go with my husband at that time. With their attempt, my husband and his family members also agreed to keep my interest and my “Bidai” was postponed and because of fear of punishment they accepted my proposal to stay in my own home till my adulthood. I faced austicism from my relatives and parents but today I feel happy that my younger sisters are safe from child marriage.
Narrative credit to Centre for Social Research and National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development
Original narrative published in ‘A Study on Child Marriage in India: Situational Analysis in Three States’