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Mar 15, 2017

This is What Child Marriage Looks Like

Oxfam India

On 17 May 1997 Kamala Devi was married to Ram Morat, she was only 9 years old. Ram Morat was 19.

Kamala Devi was studying in Standard 4 at the time. She did not know what marriage was; she just followed her parents' instructions. After marriage her in-laws allowed her to continue her studies. The real trouble started when Kamala Devi started menstruating; Ram Morat started forcing her to have sex with him, Kamala Devi did not know anything about sex then. By then Ram Morat started the habit of drinking alcohol, when he was drunk he would force himself on Kamala.

Helpless, Kamala would cry all night and next day complain to her in-laws about the abuse. Her father-in-law did try to help her, but Morat would not listen to him, he kept abusing Kamala. Kamala Devi went though physical and mental torture for a year, after which she managed to move back to her mother's. Ram’s parents visit her at her mother's and requested her parents to send her back. Because of the social pressure, they decided to send her back.

Kamala says in rural Uttar Pradesh being single is taboo for women, no matter what happens, a woman must live with her husband. She suffered for years, and every time the violence only increased, When she sough respite, Kamala would move back to her mother's home and her in-laws would force her to come back.  

When Kamala Devi started going to college Ram Morat started suspecting her. He began physically abusing her in public places apart from home. In 2010, Morat visited Kamala at her college and started beating her in front of other students. By then Kamala had enough of the violence and lodged an FIR against her husband. The matter went to court, but Morat did not relent. He thrashed her outside the court premises demanding that he move back with him.

The case went on for 3 years and in 2014, both the families settled the issue out of court: Morat accepted divorce from Kamala and told her he will never bother her anymore.

Kamala has completed her Bachelor of Arts Degree and enrolled herself in Master of Arts Degree in Sanskrit. Kamala Devi also cleared her written test for Uttar Pradesh women’s police and is preparing for physical training. 

As per official data, close to 30% of ever married Indian women between the ages of 15-49 years experienced violence at the hands of their husbands in 2015-2016.* The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 has completed 10 years. Yet it remains weak. Know why by an Oxfam India study conducted on the issue. 

In 2015-2016, Oxfam India reached out to nearly 2 lakh people on the issue of violence against women and discriminatoy social practices.   

*Source: NFHS 4 

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