By Oxfam India:
For six years of my married life, I tried to surrender to social customs which demanded that I bear every insult heaped on me by my husband and in-laws. However, once I realized that I had the right to a violence free and happy life, there was no stopping me from challenging my oppressors.
I hail from the village of Adhauda. In spite of being a good student, I was forced to give up school after grade 5 to look after two younger brothers. In 2008, I got married to Himel. For me, the wedding was a chance to escape the oppressive atmosphere at home where my alcoholic father often beat up my mother. Little did I know that I was falling into a worse trap!
The first shock came almost as soon as the wedding ceremony was over; Himel told me that I will not be accompanying him to Agra, where he worked. I had barely reconciled myself to this fact when my mother-in-law, Mansi, began taunting me for bringing very little dowry. The kitchen utensils, bed, jewellery and 7,000 rupees in cash that I had brought, were deemed unworthy. When my father-in-law tried to intervene, Mansi insinuated that he was doing so because he coveted his son’s wife.
The times when Himel visited home, he used to join his mother in beating me up. When I asked him ‘why’, he said it was simply because he no longer liked me. After two years of enduring violence, I made the first attempt to challenge it by reporting the matter in the local chowki. My husband and in-laws were summoned and Himel gave a written undertaking that he would either take me with him to his place of work or would stay with me in the village.
Yet, after a month of living with me, he returned to work. This time, I was not the one to give up and I asked the village panchayat to intervene in the matter. In the presence of village pradhans, my mother and in-laws, an agreement was once again made. And yet again, it was dishonoured.
I returned to my parents’ place and contacted the women’s helpline, through which I approached Vimarsh- an organization member of the Saajha Manch collective. After a Domestic Incident Report was filed, counsellors went to my husband’s place and he outright refused to accept me. In June 2013, when my father-in-law passed away, I made one last effort to reconcile with Himel. I went to offer my condolences believing that in that moment of sadness they would let bygones be bygones. In less than a month of my stay, they started abusing me again. My husband went as far as threatening to kill me.
In July 2013, I filed a case under Section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 demanding Rs 1 lakh as the total compensation and Rs 5,000 as monthly maintenance.
Despite lack of support from my father who had once suggested that suicide is a better option than legal recourse, I was determined not to return. I want to resume my education. Sometimes, hiding from my family, I read my brothers’ schoolbooks. The principal of the village school has asked me to return, but I shy away at the thought of sitting with much younger girls.
I am still recovering from the horrors of my marriage and I don’t have a clear thought about what I want to do now. The only thing I’m clear about is pursuing my legal case.
I need a clean slate to restart my life. I am determined to have it.