SARLAHI, Nov 29: Amrita Kumari, 20, tied nuptial knot with Sagar Mahato last year. The local of Murtiya - 5 and Mahato, resident of Lalbandi had never known each-other before marriage.
The arranged marriage cost Kumari’s family over Rs 800,000. It was hard for them. However they somehow arranged the funds. While they were struggling to pay off the marriage loan, they had to confront the unexpected. Kumari was sent back to them within a few months by her in-laws.
“We had left no stone unturned to make her marriage as grand as possible. We had done everything the groom’s family had asked for. We borrowed money, we did that with all our might,” said Kumari’s parents. “But seems that it did not work, she was kicked out of home.” They said that she was thrown out of the house due to minor misunderstanding between the couple. When asked for the reason, the groom’s family denied furnishing one.
Upon social pressure, the groom’s family later let her back into home. However, she is not living a life that she expected to live after the wedlock. Her husband has distanced himself from her. Amid these turmoil, Kumari realized that she had to build legal basis for her relationship. Her continued efforts to have the marriage registered have been foiled by her in-laws. They have continously denied to legalize her marriage.
Kumari had known the necessity of registering marriage before she got married. However, she was never in hurry to register the event. Now, after facing all the troubles, Kumari has realized its importance, like never before. On top of that, she has not yet acquired her citizenship. And this has caught her in legal complexities.
“In order to claim her rights, she needs the marriage registration documents. Or else, nobody will be able to help her tomorrow. The groom has left home fearing that she might pressure her for registration. It’s very unfortunate,” one of Kumari’s relatives said. “In lack of marriage registration document, we are not sure if she will get justice if she takes the legal course.”
Shyam Mahato of Laxmaniya, 22, and Janaki Kumari of Netragunj, 20 had also married last year. After nine months of marriage, Mahato committed suicide. After her spouse’s death, Janaki’s in-laws are denying providing her the right in the family property. Since she does not have a citizenship and on top of that since their marriage is not registered, Janaki is facing troubles in claiming her right.
“We had harmonious relationship. He never treated me badly. I should have registered our marriage while he was alive. After his demise, my in-laws are not willing to give me rights to family property,” she said adding that along with the sorrow of loosing her partner, her in laws are trying to deprive her of means to live.
Janaki’s parents, who never expected untimely demise of their son-in-law, are in dilemma. Apart from the sorrow of losing their son-in-law, they are worried about Janaki’s future.
“With her marriage unregistered, there is little legal ground for her to claim right to property. Lately we have tried to have it registered but so far it has been unsuccessful,” her parents said.
Janaki does not have a clue why her husband took his life. After his death, other family members who used to be nice to her earlier, have changed their behavior “They are not as good to me as they used to be when my husband was alive. I feel they want to kick me out of house for taking my share of the family property.”
While the marriage is not registered legally, it was performed socially. Members of the society had participated in her marriage and therefore are its witness. But none of them are interested in helping her get her rights.
Amid these differences, the issue has made rounds at the Area Police Office. During preliminary efforts by the police station to assist Janaki, none from the society stood on her side. With that she has knocked on the doors of district court for justice.
Archana Jha, a woman rights activist in Sarlahi, shared that once husband is dead or is not in support of wife, families hardly provide property to wife. “Families try to deprive women of property even when husband is alive. Why would they give property when husband is dead?” she said. She added that women in Madhes get married at an early age and are subjected to various forms of violence. “Regarding registration of marriage, they worry about it only when things go out of track.”
She says that violence against women in Madhes is rampant and claims that the ongoing drive on violence against women has not been effective in ending it. “There are a host of factors behind violence against women. Though awareness programs might help in highlighting these factors, they are hardly effective in addressing them.”
Uttamraj Subedi, DSP in Sarlahi, stated that women in Madhes would be far safer than they are today if they register their marriages on time. “In lack of marriage certificate, they are easily victimized by their family,” he said.