Monday, December 14, 2009

Women seeking justice in India

Seeking justice can be hard especially for women in poverty. A great story from IPS today shows how difficult it can be living in the class system in India. Not only do you experience threats and intimidation from those you accuse, but your entire village can shun you as well.

From IPS writer Nitin Jugran Bahuguna gives a couple of examples of women who persisted to gain justice. Our snippet focuses on the story of Maya Yadav, who fought the custom of forced marriage.

Maya Yadav, 50, of Teent village, incurred the extreme displeasure of her community when she pursued the perpetrators of a child marriage, which culminated in the police descending on the village for a showdown with the accused.

"People at one point refused to talk to me, saying I had brought shame on the village by calling in the police, but I refused to relent," she says grimly.

It started when 15-year-old Bunty was promised in marriage by her parents to a man in his 40s for 50,000 rupees (around 1,000 U.S. dollars). "Her uncle told me of the outrageous proposition and I immediately contacted the parents and threatened to call the police. Scared, they assured me the marriage would not take place. But after a few days, they left the village and returned two weeks later – without their daughter," recalls Yadav.

To queries from Yadav and others, the parents were defiant, saying the whereabouts of their daughter was no one else’s business. Again, with the help of the girl’s uncle, Yadav discovered that Bunty had been forcibly married off.

"We found where she was living and persuaded the groom and his parents to return the girl to her maternal home and wait until she turned 18, the legal age for marriage. The alternative, we said, was to inform against them to police," she says.

Though coerced into agreeing to Yadav’s demands, the groom’s family had no intention of leaving Bunty behind. Finally, Yadav called the police who ascertained from the frightened girl that the marriage was not of her choosing. Steps were then taken to annul the marriage.

Today, Yadav has strengthened her position in the village by becoming the sarpanch. Under her guidance, gender awareness programmes have been initiated at regular intervals in the village so that every single girl in her community now attends school.

No comments: