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.
Ruksana was forced to marry her aunt’s son when she was 15 years old. Her husband was an alcoholic who would beat her if she refused to do anything he asked. Ruksana was finally able to get a divorce with the help of the Centre for Social Research.
We were seven children in the family. Three brothers, four sisters. I am the eldest of them all. My parents forced me to marry as soon as I finished 8th grade. I was just 15. I tried to refuse as I wanted to study further. One of my aunts wanted me to marry her son. She said because I’m a cripple no one is going to marry me. Just give us some money and my son would accept me somehow.
Initially when my husband started drinking I did not realise that he was addicted to alcohol. He also used to take drugs. Whenever I protested, he used to beat me up. My kids used to stay with my in-laws. They came to visit me this one time. Both of them had come for a couple of days during their school holidays. That day, my husband came home in the evening and asked me to cook something for dinner. He gave me 100 rupees and I cooked some food. After having food, he started a conversation.
We used to live in a single room with just one bed. He asked me to have sex with him. I said no. The kids are with us. He tore off my clothes right in front of my children. My hands were tied. The children were right there. At that time, my son was around 6-7 years old. Then he started saying you are good for nothing. You are just a cripple…
You will never amount to anything but just live off me for the rest of your life.
She told me about my rights and the laws protecting me. I then started to believe in myself.
[joined as an assistant counsellor at CSR]
My life really started to get better then. I met a lot of women like myself. I did not feel alone anymore.
I went to him with my parents and this time they supported me. I finally got a divorce.
My life has completely changed since. I’m doing my graduation now. Secondly, I’m now working. I teach small kids. The salary might be a little low, but I love my job.
Narrative provided by the Centre for Social Research