Shalini (name changed to protect identity) recently discovered that marital rape is not an offence in this country, nor are attempts by her lawfully wedded husband to use her to further his political interests. She has filed a case for maintenance and domestic violence in the Gurugram (Gurgaon) court, after the Haryana Police refused to lodge an FIR against her politically powerful husband.
In a rare display of courage Shalini has taken to social media to tell her story, show injuries she sustained, disclose her experience with Haryana Police and her husband’s powerful friends. What makes her struggle even more extraordinary is that she is also a rape survivor.
She got a close relative arrested and jailed for raping her. But when she filed a case against her politically influential husband for marital rape, domestic violence and sought maintenance for herself and her son, she came up against a wall.
Haryana Police would not lodge an FIR because her husband was the election agent of a powerful minister and now member of a state commission. There was no ‘evidence’ of domestic violence, they offered by way of explanation. She retaliated by posting photographs of blood-clotting on her back and waist.
Overcoming the trauma of being raped repeatedly by a blood relative, she steeled herself to get educated. Daughter of a retired BSF official, Shalini looked for a job and got in fact a central government job. And just when she was preparing to start life afresh, she met her prince charming.
He was 14 years his senior; he was 41 years old while she was just about 27. He was a widower, his first wife having died of cancer she was told. But he was rich, politically ambitious with a circle of influential friends and courted her with the determination of a politician. She succumbed to his charm and within a few months, they got married in January, 2015 following a whirlwind romance. While her family was hesitant, it helped that he too was a Yadav by caste.
The idyll did not last long though. She was upset when he declared that 50 relatives and friends would accompany him to the wedding but turned up with 250 of them. This seemed a deliberate act to humiliate her and her family. He promised eternal love and a grand reception at his house in Mahendragarh, which never took place. But she was in love, smitten and ready to forgive everything.
A few months after the wedding though, she found him talking to various women late at night. He would invariably leave the room to talk to them. Then she found to her shock that he had circulated intimate photographs of hers he had taken with her permission.
Some of his influential friends began taking liberties with her and making passes. She complained but her husband shrugged it off. Wasn’t she a liberated woman, a bold woman? Couldn’t she take a little flirting in her stride?
She suspected him of having relations with other women and confronted him. He responded by beating the daylights out of her. On a visit to Gurugram (Gurgaon), she was locked in a room with an important Haryana politician, who did not assault her but humiliated her by referring to her past. Wasn’t she raped by her close relative? Why not grant sexual favours to politically powerful people so that her husband’s political career could advance, it was suggested.
At a get-together at the senior Haryana minister’s house, she broke down. The minister’s wife was sympathetic but advised her to remain quiet and put up with her man. “Men are violent and have a glad eye—gradually everything will fall in place…” she was advised.
She gradually realised that she was steadily being pushed into complete submission and feared falling a prey to scandals. It was then that she went and confided to her parents.
Shocked but supportive, the parents suggested various ways at reconciliation. They took her back to her husband’s house. They were overjoyed when she conceived. But even during her pregnancy, a difficult one, he forced himself on her and his liaisons persisted. Protests led to more beatings. She put up with this for the sake of the child she was carrying and she delivered a boy.
She was heartbroken when her husband demanded a DNA test to confirm that the boy was his child. Electricity at the farmhouse in Mahendragarh was cut off. The milkman was told to stop delivering milk. The young mother and the baby were left stranded to fend for themselves.
This was when she decided that enough was enough. She consulted friends, identified a lawyer specialising in matrimonial matters and following his advice, sued her husband for maintenance.
In 2015-16, 504 cases of domestic violence were reported in Haryana. Of course many more go unreported. Haryana comes third after Uttar Pradesh and Delhi in cases involving violence on women.
There is also a study conducted in 2011 by the International Centre for Research on Women which shows that one in every five Indian men surveyed admitted to forcing their wives into non-consensual sex.
Her husband has filed an FIR against her for defamation for one of her Facebook posts. Undaunted, she called on the ADGP of Haryana with application for reinvestigation of the case. Would she settle for an out-of-court settlement, her lawyer asked. No, she replied. All that she now wants is for the father of the child to acknowledge that the son is his. Her struggle for justice continues.