Sold Off In Marriage – Joanna Barretto and Radhika Goel BA LLB 2012

Child-Rights-ActThe room was hot and stuffy. I could hear the noises of vehicles as they whizzed past the dingy office. I could hear men talk in loud voices, as I waited for someone to attend to my need. Sitting there, my mind began to wander, and I thought of my days at home. Those wonderful memories seemed to be from a past I barely recognized now. I was soon forced to set my thoughts aside when I heard a thud on the table. Seeing a burly policeman sitting in front of me, fear griped me. I proceeded nonetheless to recount my recent horrors, in the hope that this would soon end.

Life had taken a turn for the worse when my father passed away, forcing me to drop out of school and work instead. My mother felt that working as a domestic help would be a good option since I was only thirteen and also because it ensured a regular income. Hence, my mother signed me up at a recruiting agency, in the hope that I would soon be employed. My mother’s prayers were answered in a week when I was informed of the household that I would be working for on a 24X7 basis. On the appointed day, I was taken to the house, to begin my work. However, in a few days, I was sent to another house, and that is when the real nightmare began.

I supposed I was to work in this new house instead of the previous one. How erroneous my belief tuned out to be, when instead of working for him, I was made to marry him. I was thirteen and he was thirty-two. Life as I knew had changed drastically within the span of one week. I knew no one, nor what was expected of me. I was all alone in a strange new place. With no one to turn to for help or advice, I silently did as I was told. If my days were bad, my nights were far worse. He usually came home angry and frustrated with his work, and would vent out his anger on me. I thought it was all part of my job, and bore it silently, believing that I would be paid at the end of the month as I had been told. However, it had been four months, and I had not received any money.

I wondered if it was because my mother was given the money instead. Sometimes I wondered if she knew where I was. With so much work to do during the day and the abuse I received during the night, I never had much time to ponder on these questions. The only time I had left to myself was when he fell asleep after hours of violence. The physical violence often left my body numb. I could not cry since crying would only make the bruises on my face burn, and I could not bear any more pain. With each passing night, my only prayer was to have the strength to face another day. I wondered if there would ever be a way out.

My body had soon reached its limit and I knew I could take no more of this pain. The only way to beat this solitude was by leaving the house. The risk was high since running away meant I would never receive the income I had been promised. However, I knew if I did stay on longer, I would only be put through more pain. That was when I decided I would leave the house while he was out on work during the day. What started as a thought soon culminated into action when one afternoon he left the house, forgetting to lock the door after him. Seizing this opportunity, I ran in the hope of being rescued.

My head felt lighter as I sighed. I was still terrified, but the look on the policeman’s face was reassuring. He had noted down almost everything I said, and promised to not only take me home, but also punish the man who had put me through so much pain. He asked where my house was. I then remembered what my father once said- “home is where someone is thinking of you.” My mind was soon filled with the memories of my family, and I felt at ease, believing I would soon be going home. I was then accompanied by two women to a room where I was asked to rest. Knowing that my mother was waiting for me, I did something I hadn’t been able to do in a long time- I smiled.

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About cwlsc

The Centre for Women, Law and Social Change has been established to advance inter-disciplinary approaches to feminism in teaching, research and policy advocacy. Along with academic commitment to high-quality research in the field of gender and the Centre aims to actively contribute to wider legal thinking on issues related to social justice. The Centre aims to support the initiatives of all the Centres of the JGU and actively collaborate with international, national and grassroots organisations. It encourages various student initiatives in the field of gender and social justice, and seeks to encourage critical thinking on how gender operates in a dynamic with other structures of power in both historical and contemporary contexts. The Centre members teach courses on Feminist Jurisprudence; Gender Law and Governance and Family Law.
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