She oscillated between her parents’ house to her sister’s house. Her guilt of being a burden on the family that were supposedly not hers to live with made her move from one household to another and back. Subtle remarks at the house not being hers to live in by family members further reinforced her guilt. She became depressed. She met a lawyer to file for divorce, who called her husband for marital counselling, he refused. She has not yet filed for divorce.
The following is the story of a student of English Communication Classes my mom teaches.
I am going to call her Sita. When she was twenty – one years old, she was selected as part of the women police force. She could not take the job because she was asked to pay a bribe of 1 lakh rupees to take her position. Her parents were not able to afford it and she was ethically against paying bribe for a job she rightfully deserved. She gave up the position.
A few months later she met a man, fell in love and married him. He was from a different caste, from a different region and his parents were against the marriage. Despite opposition from his parents he married her. He was a marketing professional and he was away 20 days in a month. She was often alone. Two months after marriage she became pregnant and moved to her mother’s house. His visits became fewer and fewer and by the time the child was born, he was not visiting at all anymore. After her delivery she moved back with him and lived with his absence for another year. After confrontation, he revealed that he was with another woman and that if she was alright with it, she could come and live with them as well. She chose not to. She got pregnant again and aborted. She moved out.
When my mom met her, she was living in her sister’s house to help in household chores as her sister was expecting. Her sister has been asking her to file for divorce. She is contemplating whether she should or not. She called her husband once and another woman answered and when she identified herself as his wife, the other woman said that she should stop calling him as he had already gotten a divorce and SHE was now his wife. Sita’s parents have now consulted with an astrologer who says her husband will be back with her in January 2012, so she is not filing for divorce from a husband who has already moved on claiming to be divorced.
Sita has now moved back with her parents as she was getting uneasy ‘being a burden’ on her sister. She did take up several jobs while she was living with her sister but she says she felt distracted and could not focus on her job. She worked in a BPO, as an assistant to Chairman of a private educational institution, so she is certainly not a woman who can’t land jobs (not that there are any of those). She now plans to get a job.
Once when asked to make a statement with ‘if’ in English class she said “If I had taken the post in the police force, I would n’t be in this marriage today.”
Questions in her mind:
Should I have tolerated my husband and stayed with him?
Am I going crazy? referring to her depressed moods and distraction.
What does the future hold for me and my 3 year old daughter? Am I to live always with parents/family feeling like a burden?
This is violence too. This is violence of a misogynist culture against women as a gender. This culture of ostracizing women who are ‘alone’ perpetrates violence against women. I read in this article about culture and gender inequalities that there is a proverb in Egypt which says “the shadow of a man is better than a shadow of a house.” Brought up with this kind of education can we really blame women who find it difficult to file for divorce/leave even in abusive relationships? How many people can even begin to comprehend her distress and the psychological turmoil she has been going through for the last 3 years? To whom in our society can Sita turn to for help? Who are her support system is this harsh society? What are most people she talks to likely to tell her? I am guessing few people are going to give her the same advice my mom did – file for divorce, get a job and see a counsellor to help her through her distress.