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Change is Coming: Rani Bitti’s Story
Oxfam / Oxfam India
After years of abuse, Rani Bitti fought for her rights and believes change is coming. Read her story http://bit.ly/1Tg3c7V
Rani Bitti endured years of physical abuse at the hands of her husband and mother-in-law. Yet, she was hesitant to pursue legal action against them, as she felt that it would cause suffering to her parents. However, when she finally plucked up the courage to ask for help, she found not just legal assistance, but also psychological support from her village, Chitrakoot in Uttar Pradesh.
Two years into her married life, Rani Bitti, then 15 years old, found out that her husband Sitaram suffered from tuberculosis. The beatings started when she questioned him on why the fact had been hidden from her parents. Her mother-in-law Chunni instigated Sitaram to stay away from his wife and even disowned the son born to the couple. The family was well off, and owned farmland, but Rani Bitti was forced to work as a labourer to meet her needs and those of her son, Manish. While the family stayed in a three room pucca house in the village Arjanpur, Rani Bitti was banished to an outside mud room that doubled up as kitchen and bedroom. Then one day, mother and son (then 7 years old) were thrown out of even that room.
Rani Bitti and Manish sought refuge at her parents’ home in Baghi. Her father approached the village panchayat for a solution, but despite many summons, Rani Bitti’s husband never came to compromise.
Then, her father Vipati heard of Vanangana through a family that had approached the organization earlier. At Vanangana, a Domestic Incident Report was filed, and for more than a year the organization tried to broker a compromise between the couple. When this failed, in September 2009, a formal case of domestic violence was lodged against Sitaram and his mother, and maintenance sought for Rani Bitti and her son.
Despite moral and legal support from the organization, Rani Bitti found it difficult to pursue the case. “I was mentally broken. I could see that my parents were suffering because of me,” she says. Thus, despite the support of her parents, Rani Bitti returned to her in-laws’ home. The neighbours prevailed upon her in-laws to let her live in the outside room again. Her shocked parents decided to have nothing to do with her.
In December 2013, Sitaram gave a formal undertaking to the court that he would henceforth not mistreat his wife, and started living with Rani Bitti and Manish. He also started undergoing treatment for his condition. Rani Bitti’s courage propelled her neighbours into supporting her. The gram pradhan, Ram Sagar Pandey, put her name on the list of eligible beneficiaries of the Indira Awas Yojna. He says, “The entire village considers it a duty to stand by a woman who has suffered so much for no fault of hers.”
Though Rani Bitti is the sole earning member in her family of three, she is positive about a turnaround. “Once my husband gets better, he will look for work. Things will get better. I want to educate my son as much as possible,” she says. Her husband’s moving in with her has put an end to her mother-in-law Chunni’s interference in the couple’s life.
Though her parents are still angry with her for having moved back to her marital home, her three brothers continue to support her financially, sending money for Manish’s school fees, books and clothes. Manish, who is now 13 year old, says, “I will take care of my mother when I grow up.” Rani Bitti looks on fondly, believing that change is coming.
Written By: Oxfam India staff
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