Sometimes people ask me why I do the work that I do. Why not be a lawyer to earn more money? Are you worried that you are hurting society when women divorce? Here is a story that might give some answers:
A little girl had beautiful dreams about her life. During her childhood she wants to go to a private school and she wants to become a doctor or a medical person. But because she is a girl, she and her sister have to go the government school and her two brothers go to the private school. Because she was from an indigenous family she felt discrimination from outside her family. Because she was a girl she felt discrimination from in her family. But she felt sure that her father will one day realise how keen she was to study and let her study continue.
But while she was waiting for her results to come from the Year 12 exams her father arranged her marriage. She begged and begged him to let her achieve her dreams but he denied her and forced her to marry a man who was working in the Gulf country. To obey her father she dropped all her beautiful dreams and happiness and went to marry this man she did not know. She told me that this is what happens in the adivasi* community with the girls. During the pressured environment of the marriage days where a ceremony goes on for many days she fainted at the groom’s house. After some hours she regained consciousness and everyone in the groom’s family was asking her what was wrong with her. They suspect that she was previously sick and she tried to convince them the truth that she had never fainted before and that she was never ill before. In-laws don’t want ill daughters-in-law because they want very active workers in their house and the groom wants his bride to be strong and healthy and bear lots of children. That is what they want, nothing to do with a lovely relationship. Arranged marriages are like a business deal.
The family decided that she was in depression and called her mad. She tried to convince them she was normal and could do all the housework but they began to torture her. After spending two and half years with the husband’s family she had suffered so much she could tolerate no more so she decided to go ahead and train for a job as a lab assistant with 12 months training in the hospital. She asked to her father for help but he was so rude and said she had to ask her in-laws. She talked with her mother but her mother had nothing to help her with and she was dependent on her husband, Deepa’s father.
She knew her in-laws would never agree so she sold all the golden jewellery that she was given on her wedding day and used this to buy her training and rent a room. She registered her property and her divorce case in the court. She was staying in a rented room but now with three months of her training to go she has run out of money and has nowhere to go. She is now extremely vulnerable and is being threatened by both families.
A female lawyer referred her to Samunnat and when she started her story to me she burst into tears. I felt her pain and know how hard it is to suffer without any source of living. As we heard about this poor girl’s story one lady who had visited us told us that she was donating some money in memory of her mother. Thank you Sue because your generosity will heal our Deepa’s pain and mean that in future she will achieve her dreams.
*Adivasi communities are our indigenous communities. I have changes some details of this story.