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Bhavna – India

This story was shared as part of the launch of Sexual Violence in South Asia: Legal and Other Barriers to Justice for Survivors, co-authored by Equality Now and Dignity Alliance International. This story is anonymous and the name Bhavna is a pseudonym.

I used to work with caterers cooking food for marriages and parties. A contractor promised me a job so I went with them and they sold me to a group who were part of a trafficking network. I was kept in a farmhouse and people would come to rape me.

I couldn’t escape because I was never left alone. Then one day we were in the village and I happened to meet the village head. I pleaded to him to let me go because what they were doing to me was not right and I had children. He listened and felt concerned and with his help, I was able to get out.

I was away for almost six months and when I returned home, my husband beat me and left. Instead of supporting me, he told the Jati Panchayat that I had eloped with someone else. But why would a woman leave her children?

I went to the police and they were initially unwilling to file a report, saying that I was a bad woman with loose morals. It was with the help of an NGO that I was able to take my case forward.

We are already fighting society. The law should not suppress us when we raise our voices. The police should give support and at least write down reports in a timely manner.

I decided to file a case against my husband for domestic violence. The Jati Panchayat did not care about me being raped and did not like me speaking publicly about my husband being violent. He was from the same caste as them and they thought he should not have to go to jail. The Panchayat said that if I had some self-respect then I wouldn’t take this legal course and make things into a big issue.

As punishment, the Jati Panchayat ordered that my parents would have to pay a fine of one lakh (approx. $1370 USD) if they allowed me to return to their home. My father told me they could not afford the money and so they cut ties with me.

My rape case was filed in 2016 and is still ongoing. The accused’s statement is being recorded and the perpetrators are out on bail.

The authorities said that I would get compensation of five lakhs (approx. $6866 USD) but I have not received this. And when I went to court, my lawyer informed me that I would get a conveyance fee (money paid to compensate a witness for travel and food expenses when attending court) but when I went to take the money, the court officials asked “conveyance fee for what?”

Sexual violence in India

Sexual violence in South Asia