NEW DELHI: From her hometown Betul in Madhya Pradesh, the first stop to earn “Rs 200 more” in daily wages was Pune, Maharashtra. Soon, Leela (Name changed) realised something was amiss when her accompanying village neighbour made her shuttle between different towns and cities promising ‘company jobs’.
Later, forcibly being sold off in a ‘marriage’ by the middlewoman Rajni and raped by her ‘husband’ for six months, Leela was rescued in a joint operation of police and an NGO.
As protesters raised slogans ‘Balatkariyon ko dhikkar’ and spoke of the need of shame to support policy for sexual violence survivors at the culmination of the 10,000 km Dignity March in the national capital on Friday, Leela said she is a part of the march to script change in her life and thousands of trafficking survivors like her.
According to National Crime Records Bureau data, crimes against women increased 35.73 per cent from 2,37,931 in 2012 to 3,22,949 in 2016. Nutan (name changed) from Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh had a similar ordeal to narrate. When she was rescued after being trafficked across cities, she returned to her parents and in-laws who abandoned her. “Why should I feel ashamed? If society had supported us, we would not have had the need to come and raise our voice,” said Nutan.
Kasturba Devi* from Rajasthan spoke of how her daughter was sedated and trafficked twice. Facing stigma, her in-laws wanted to close their doors on her too. But, eventually, they accepted her. “Now she is married. She goes for psychiatric treatment. Her husband accompanies her…” Survivors narrated how the lack of government and family support further pushed them into poverty and destitution.
The Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan (RGA), which spearheaded the march, announced the launch of a national network to mobilise survivors of sexual violence and their families to come forward and talk about the crime. “Our experiences showed the condition is similar across states. The struggle is not specific to rural or urban areas. There is a need for a forum for survivors,” said Ashif Shaikh, convenor, RGA.
Bhanwari Devi who was gang-raped 30 years ago and hit the national spotlight with her fight for justice, said they started the #MeToo movement 20 years back and have been trying to mainstream the struggle of the marginalised ever since. A programme held in her village recently where not even a single villager turned up to support her shows how rape survivors are ostracised even today, said Shaikh.