By Sanghamitra Bora:
Rani (name changed) is a proud mother of three daughters. It was in the summer of May 2014, when I first met her, after the commencement of an internship at the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW). That summer gave me perfect insights on inhumanity, misogyny and heinous crimes committed against women. I observed an awkward silence, curious whispers and whimsical glances the first time she entered the room. But her exuberant face emanated happiness. She cleverly concealed the pain buried within her for years. It was with an honest concern that I wished to hear her story. As days passed, my relationship with Rani strengthened, but it was only during the last phase of the internship that she decided to unravel her story.
She was only 17 when her family married her off to a 30-year-old man. After six months, he insisted she start working, and she eagerly accepted. The next day, he took her to a stranded place and asked her to stay put until he returned. Hours passed by and there was no sight of him. Instead, two other men with familiar faces appeared. They were her husband’s friends who paid regular visits to their home. In an instant, they forced themselves upon her and raped her. A hefty amount of money was collected by the husband.
This continued for years. He forced her into sex work, and he earned a decent amount of money. A few years after she gave birth to his three children, he abandoned her by saying, “You have been ‘used’ by many and I cannot stay with you anymore.” He fled the city soon and was never to be found again. Today, Rani is a sex worker who earns her living and takes care of her children. She also works part-time at the DCW as an outreach worker.
People often stereotype and demean sex workers. But many sex workers don’t ‘choose’ their profession, they are coerced into doing so. It is less likely that the threat comes from one’s family. But in Rani’s situation, her family was the main source of insecurity. There are hundreds of women who have stories similar to that of Rani, and thousands who live under the shadow of domestic threat every day. This makes me think: instead of only focusing on power politics between nations, it’s now time to shift our lens of analysis towards individual security as well.