01 Jul 2014 - 30 Jun 2015
01 Jul 2014 - 30 Jun 2015
Women form the backbone of the hill economy and bear the triple burden of rearing the children, working in the fields and looking after the old people at home. Migration of men in search for work makes life more difficult. The increasing incidents of abuse and violence on women have been on the increase, both at the household level and in the society at large. As per the 2011 census of the State. The sex ratio stands at 963:1000. According to the National crime record Bureau’s report of 2011, 996 cases of VAW were registered amongst which 129 were rape cases , 289 kidnapping , 83 dowry deaths , 307 domestic violence , 116 teasing / stalking and 72 cases of sexual abuse .Studies have revealed the fact that women facing violence are forced to remain silent and accept the violence , as the formal justice system and support structures often fail to respond positively to women survivors. The main constraint remains the socio-cultural, socio-economical and socio-political patriarchal- caste based approach to justice. As a result, the perpetrators are not punished and VAW continues.
Daiju, 27, sought help from the Mahila Kalyan Santhan (a member organisation of the Saajha Manch collective) to tackle the relentless physical and mental violence unleashed by her husband Dharam Veer Singh—a practitioner of black magic. Though she did not want to divorce him, she was determined to get him to mend his ways.
The couple, both residents of the village of Madhra Bhoop Singh (Gadarpur) had fallen in love and married 16 years ago. For some years, all was well between them. Then Dharam developed an interest in black magic. He would spend nights praying at the cremation ground, splay ash all over the couple’s home and chant in a loud voice through the night. Soon physically assaulting Daiju was added to the behaviour. After every attack he would tearfully beg for forgiveness, claiming evil powers had gotten hold of him. When Daiju was five months pregnant with her first child, Dharam hit her so hard on the bridge of her nose that a bleeding Daiju fled to her mother’s home. The next day she reported the matter to the police. Dharam was arrested for a fortnight. For the next three months Daiju remained with her mother, till her husband gave a written undertaking at the thana that he would not assault her. Yet, almost as soon as Daiju returned, the physical attacks re started.
Over the years, Daiju reported Dharam three more times to the thana. He was arrested, imprisoned, but let off on the promise of good behaviour. One more son and a daughter were born to the couple. Daiju would have accepted this cycle as her destiny had it not been for Dharam’s advances towards the couple’s eldest daughter who turned 13 last year. “In rage he would often threaten to sell her off. But when he tried to molest her, I knew I had to act”, she says.In April 2013, she reported the matter to the Jan Awaz Kendra (community level redressal centres set up under the Saajha Manch collective) where a Domestic Incident Report was filed. Fearing for her daughter’s safety, she sent her to live with her mother and brother. Infuriated at his daughter’s removal Dharam got home a woman and announced his intent to marry her. Daiju and the two younger children were forced out.Yet Daiju returned after a few days when news reached her that the woman had left. “How can I just give up everything? How will my children be provided for?” she argues.
Daiju’s fear is that if she abandons her marital home, she will either have to give up the children or the children will be denied their rightful claim over Dharam’s property. Though she has the support of her mother Munko Devi and brother Rajesh, she believes she must ensure her children’s rights even at the cost of her own safety. Taking the matter to the Jan Awaz Kendra has ensured temporary lulls in Dharam’s volatile behaviour. Every time a case worker checks on Daiju, Dharam mends his ways for a while.
While the entire village fears Dharam’s black magic and does not confront him, Daiju’s brother Rajesh says, “If my sister were to file for divorce, I would support her in every way possible. I am also willing to give her a share in our father’s property”. It is from that promise of security that Daiju derives the strength to continue the fight for her rights.