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Rachna’s Fight for Justice
Rachna was left helpless after her in-laws disowned her. Oxfam India helps women like her get justice. Read http://bit.ly/1Xi4237
The complicated nature of Rachna’s predicament prevented her from seeking help. However, when pushed against the wall, she decided to turn things around. On a chilly February morning, Rachna awoke to find herself in front of a temple near her parents’ home in Lucknow. This was the last in a series of physical and mental assaults that had marked her three-and-a-half year long married life in Mathura.
Rachna, a post graduate in Hindi Literature, was married to Vikrant, who was the brother-in-law of her younger sister Neha. Rachna was then 31, and her marriage had been delayed because she wanted to complete her studies before settling down. Vikrant seemed like the perfect match.
Though her married life was difficult — with her in-laws, her husband and her own sister misbehaving with her — it was the birth of a son in November 2008 that wrecked the situation. The son was forcibly taken away and the family refused to pay Rachna’s medical bills, which were then cleared by her brother. Back at her in-laws’ house, Rachna was told that her son would belong to her sister. “I was not even allowed to touch my child,” she says.
For three and a half years after that, Rachna remained at her in-laws’ home in Mathura, enduring physical and mental abuse. Her only solace was that she could see her son. She would often be locked in a room and denied food, forced to bathe with cold water in winter and asked repeatedly to leave the house. All through the ordeal, she was prevented from contacting her parents.
Then one day, she was forced to swallow some medicines that made her sleepy. When she woke up, she found herself in the compound of a temple near her parents’ home in Lucknow. “A neighbor spotted me and took me home,” she remembers. When Snehlata Mishra, a member of Oxfam India supported volunteer group and a frequent visitor to the provisions store run by Rachna’s brother came to know about the case, she took her to the mediation centre at the SSP office in Lucknow. Since her own family was unwilling to support her, Rachna wanted to return to her in-laws and was referred to the mediation cell in Mathura for support.
However, she was denied entry into her marital home. For one and a half months, she stayed at a short-stay home, hoping that her in-laws would relent. Her husband once tricked her into coming with him, and then tried to force her to give in writing that she would not pursue a legal case against him. She refused, and followed it up with a complaint to the police.
Rachna returned to Lucknow, and was told by her family that they did not want to have anything to do with her. Mishra took her in. While the mediation centre’s continued efforts to work out a compromise between Rachna and Vikrant have not worked, she is now in the process of filing a case for her child’s custody.
Realizing Rachna’s need for economic independence, Oxfam India's partner on the ground arranged for her to be trained in furniture polishing. It was an unconventional choice of a vocation, but Rachna displayed a flair for it and was so good at her work that she was employed by her trainer for six months. When the furniture maker moved his shop to another location that was far from her home, Rachna gave up her job and currently takes up assignments, often on reference from Humsafar.
“My ordeal has made me realize how important it is for women to be independent. I used to be very scared. Now I have the strength to fight for my child and the belief that I will be able to take care of him on my own,” she says
While her family has severed ties with her, Mishra treats her as her own daughter. “I have gradually seen her grow from a woman who was so unsure of herself, to one who is well-versed with the ways of the world,” Mishra says.
As Rachna braces for the fight to get her child back, she will need all the confidence she can muster.
Written By: Oxfam India staff
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