Hyderabad: “I got married when I was just 12 years old, even before I had my periods. I was sent to live with my in-laws and ever since, I have had no peace. I was forced to do domestic chores and care for the three sons of my husband’s brother who live with us. I never did much work at my mother’s place as I was studying and went to school. I would occasionally help her in washing utensils and sweeping the floor,” said Renuka, a child bride who dropped out of school at the age of 16.
She added, “There was certainly no wage work. After marriage, I had to go to the field to earn wages and work on farms. I also had to cook for the entire house, and as time passed, the burden of work increased and I was told to do everything, without rest.”
Pressure of husband, in-laws and patriarchy at its worst
Rajyamma, another child bride and mother of a son said, ‘’my mother-in-law never tolerated me taking even a minute’s rest. This is not the first time that a woman has become pregnant. When I was young, I worked twice as hard. I never complained’, my mother-in-law used to say even before I expressed that I was too tired, especially because I was carrying.’’
She added, “I quarreled with my husband, asking if he cared at all. He scolded me and said, ‘How can you not work?’ Don’t you kn-ow that one day of rest is a loss of `200-300 as wages? I worked and worked till the time I was full term. I was sent to my mother’s place whenever they obs-erved that I am becoming weak. I delivered a baby boy, but was too weak to return to my in-laws house immediately.” Now, I have returned and work on cotton seed and chilli farms. I migrate for seasonal work carrying my son everywhere. My husband takes no interest in me or my son. He grabs all the wages I earn. He goes out with his friends and only infrequently takes me to my mother’s place which is 50 kms away’’.
When i asked him if he ever cared about me, he scolded me and said, ‘How can you not work?’ Don’t you know that one day of rest is a loss of `200-300 as wages.
A child bride
Repeated pregnancies take a toll on minor girls
Shailaja, who was married at the age of 17, said, “Due to overwork, carrying heavy loads, lack of food and my husband’s abuses, I had a miscarriage in my sixth month of pregnancy. Within two months, I was pregnant again. This time, my mother took over my work and I successfully gave birth to a baby girl. The family, including my mother-in-law, was unhappy and hurled abuses at me. I was getting weak with work and taking care of my baby girl. Six months later I was pregnant again. My husband and his mother insisted that I get my foetus scanned to find out if it was a girl or a boy.
My husband and his mother insisted that I get my foetus scanned to find out if it was a girl or a boy. They found that it was a girl and forced me to have an abortion.
A child bride
They found that it was a girl and forced me to have an abortion. Four months, later I got pregnant again. This is my fourth pregnancy, and it has made me weak. My mother-in-law is abusing me in anticipation that I would give birth to another girl. My husband drinks and beats me up. When I tell my mother that I am being ill-treated, she says that since my father beat her, there is nothing wrong in my husband beating me.”