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Hoping for a Second Chance: Punita Devi
OXFAM INDIA STAFF
20 yr old Punita Devi has put her abusive marriage behind her after our partners helped her get justice. Read her story: http://bit.ly/210Fgu3
Her voice was barely above a whisper when Punita Devi, 20, spoke about her hopes for the future. Just a year earlier, she had been so badly beaten up by her husband and his family that the left side of her head, face and shoulder had turned black. Even now, she cannot bend down and work in the fields. It takes courage to be hopeful for a better life after everything she has been through.
Punita, who is from Partapur village in Bihar’s Madhubani district, was married at the age of 17 years to a man who worked in a garment factory in Bhiwandi, near Mumbai. Even though her father was a poor fisherman belonging to Malha community (Other Backward Castes), he paid Rs 1,00,000 as dowry. However, after just six months, the demands for more money began, accompanied by severe physical violence by her husband whenever he came home from Mumbai.
Her in-laws took away all her jewellery, mistreated her and also instigated their son against her. Often, they would refuse her food. She was also not allowed to go back to her parents’ home.
Once, her uncle managed to bring her home but she was forced to go back, as her in-laws gave word to their Jati Panchayat that they would keep her well. However, the physical violence continued for a year, after which the Jati Panchayat asked her to return to her village and settle the dispute remotely.
Punita finally returned home in her bruised condition and approached her aunt Dhanmanti Devi, 60, who was the mukhiya of the village’s Mahila Dastak. When Dhanmanti Devi discussed her case with other members, they decided to forward the case to the state-sponsored Women’s Helpline. On the other hand, with the help of Samajik Chetna Kendra (a network partner in Madhubani), Punita’s case was also taken to the court.
After hearing Punita’s case, the Women’s Helpline passed an order for Punita’s in-laws to return Rs 1,50,000 to her, which they have not done yet. The court also ordered the police to arrest members of the family, but they managed to get bail. The case is still ongoing.
Dhanmanti Devi and the members of Mahila Dastak are determined to get Punita justice. They are ready to go all the way to Delhi, if required.
“I feel responsible for being a burden on my family. So I work with my father in the tea stall to help him earn money,” Punita says. She is now waiting for the settlement to happen, so that she can start thinking about her future.
“I will marry whoever my father chooses. What he does for me will be for my own good. Not everyone is bad. I hope that the next man will be good,” she concludes.
Written by Oxfam India staff
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