Sunita Chaudhari, 21, of Bairghat village working at a pharmacy near her parents' home. Sher Bahadur KC/Republica
BUTWAL, April 18: Sunita Chaudhari, 21, of Bairghat village was married when she was just 12. As part of the cultural practice in Madhes, where some young brides go to the groom’s house after staying some years at their parent’s house, she also went to her husband’s house in Maryadapur village seven years after the marriage. But things did not turn the way they were expected.
Her conjugal life went into disarray after her husband and in-laws started treating her improperly. She realized that she is not compatible with her husband or his family members after staying two months with them and ultimately decided to call it quits.
“When I went to my husband I had so many wishes and plans for starting a new life with my new family. But everything came crashing during those two months. I realized that he was not only uneducated but also was poor in understanding human feelings,” Sunita said. “I realized that if your husband is treating you inhumanely and if your in-laws are not assisting you in assimilating in the family, it becomes very hard to continue the relationship.”
Sunita had continued her school even after her marriage and during those years she stayed with her parents, she says, she never felt that she is compatible with her husband. But nonetheless she went to her husband’s house because of her parent’s insistence.
“I had told my parents that my husband is not educated and understanding and that we might not be able to lead a happy married life together. But they would not listen to me. They insisted that since I was married to him, I was obliged to live with him.”
Her worst fears came true at her in-law’s house and she had to give up hope for saving her marriage that had cost her parents around half million rupees. The groom’s family was given Rs 100,000 in cash, a buffalo, furniture and jewelry. “Parents take it as a matter of dignity in the society to spend for daughter’s marriage. Marriage means, settling daughter’s life,” Sunita said explaining the expenditure that her parents did on her marriage.
Reflecting on the core factors that is threating her marriage, she said that it was the parent’s inability to analyze compatibility between a girl and boy for living a conjugal life.
Babita Yadav of Baraula village also had to give up her two-year marriage, because of similar circumstances. Married when she was just 14 years old without consulting her, she says she decided to break away from the relationship as she could not adjust with the environment of her husband’s family.
“It was unbearable at my in-laws house. No one would understand my feelings and it became impossible for me to live in that environment. Marriages are fixed by parents based on their wishes and social prestige rather than the happiness of the girl and the boy that are to be married. This is the reason many marriages, like mine, are crumbling.”
Young brides like Babita and Sunita, who are facing hardship in their conjugal life, claim that at the root of many divorces in the region is the practice of child marriage. Even though children marry without protests, they find it hard to adjust with each other when they become adults, they say.
“Girls are married when they are small but are sent to their in-laws’ house later. By this time they get mature and it becomes hard for them to adjust to a very different environment,” she remarked.
She feels that there are many unhappy marriages in the society but all of the unhappy girls don’t quit because of their parent’s pressure. “If the parents would not coerce their daughter into adjusting to her husband’s wishes, many girls would quit their marriage. If a girl wants to quit her marriage she will have to return to her parent’s house and if they are not supportive of her decision, she can’t do anything but bear with an unhappy marriage.”
These difficult situations have forced many young brides into taking extreme measures, even committing suicide. Sunita had also tried to kill herself after she failed to cope with her unhappy marriage. But she survived. “I had consumed poison when my parents forced me to live with my husband. It was not possible for me to live in that house and they were not willing to have me stay with them,” she shared adding that even now they are not willing to accept her will.
“For some days after I returned from hospital, my parents did not talk about my married life. But they did not remain silent for long. They have been continuously pushing me to go back to my husband’s house. I don’t know how to get out of this situation,” she lamented.
Reflecting on her own experiences, she cites poverty and lack of awareness among parents for not extending the support their married daughters need to live a conjugal life. “Parents take it both as a shame and as a burden to bring their married daughters back home. This is not fair. This forces women to endure violence at their in-law’s house.”