By Oxfam India:
There was a time when I was too timid to even verbally protest against my abusive husband. But after struggling for a long time, I have now ensured a good life for my daughter and me. Today, with the support of the organization Vanangana, in Uttar Pradesh, we are confident that justice will be done.
My trials began sixteen years ago; the day my one-year-old daughter, Meethi, succumbed to fever and cough that she was suffering from, since over a month. My husband, Anil Prasad, is a schoolteacher by profession. Every time I asked him for money for the treatment of my daughter, I was told that it is worthless to invest in a girl child.
I am an illiterate woman and I was married to him at a young age of 15. My father took care of all wedding arrangements to the best of his abilities, but that was not enough to satisfy the greed of my husband and in-laws. They taunted me each day for not bringing enough dowry.
After the birth of my first daughter, I was subjected to physical and verbal abuse. My lack of education, the way I spoke, my cooking skills – anything and everything prompted my husband to hit me. By the time my second and third daughters were born, he had started bringing other women home. Like Meethi, my youngest daughter Isha also died due to lack of medical treatment. He told me, “You are as useless as the daughters you bear.”
I slipped into depression. My father brought me back home, thinking that a change of place might be good for me. I had just begun to cope with the loss of my daughters when my husband sent a divorce notice. To him, the death of our daughters meant nothing; their existence and their death was just another event.
When my father went to reason with Anil, he was abused and shooed away. I then filed a case under Section 498 A of the IPC for dowry harassment. Perturbed by the move and fearing social ridicule, Anil requested me to come back and promised that he will never mistreat me again. After going back I found that he had already married someone else. I was still hoping for a change and was mindful of social sanctions. Thus, I agreed to share the home.
However, things only got worse as Anil’s second wife devised her own ways to drive me out of the house. She did not give me any food and often locked me up. My husband resumed his daily ritual of abuse.
A year later, I was completely broken, but determined to piece my life back together. I returned to my father’s place and approached Vanangana for help. As I had asked, the organization helped me file a case for maintenance under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. A year later, the court ordered that I should be paid Rs.1500 per month. For a few months Anil complied, but later challenged the decision in High Court, where the case is still pending.
In the meantime, Vanangana had started helping me so that I could become economically independent. I was trained in sewing and they also helped me in setting up a small provision store. However, due to my trusting nature, I found it impossible to say no to those who wanted to buy on credit and that made the shop unviable.
I now work as a daily wage labourer and carry bricks at a construction site for Rs.100 per day. My husband once sent the word that he is willing to take care of my daughter if she went and lived with him, but I refused. I am confident that I will be able to take care of her on my own. Besides, I don’t trust him anymore. He never took care of her when she was little!
My daughter, Pinki, is studying in 8th standard in a private school. Vanangana chips in for her school fees. She does not want to go back to her father. “He might give me comforts, but I have decided to fight alongside my mother”, she says.
Together, we are determined to win.