“I am a mother of three daughters. I didn’t even want to have my third daughter but now I am forced to have a 4th pregnancy just for a male child,” cried Utkarsha, a 32-year-old woman from Ludhiana, Punjab, who filed a case of domestic violence against her in-laws and husband during the lockdown period.
“If it is only a husband who is forcing himself on you, one can escape but what if the whole family wants him to physically assault you just to fulfil their wish of having a male heir to the family?
The whole COVID lockdown has been my worst nightmare. On one hand, there was that forceful and pressurising discussion of everyone wanting me to get pregnant again and with a boy child this time and on the other was the fear of the death and infection in case I tried to move out and reach my parents who stay in another city.
When I delivered Mira, my oldest daughter, there was disappointment in the family, but still since she was our first child, we still welcomed her home. Soon, I was pregnant again and this time I had been wishing and praying for a boy child, but destiny had other plans. I delivered Kaira, my second daughter within two years of Mira. My pregnancy during Kaira was complicated because of high-BP issues I had. I was so stressed about delivering a male child, that all that pressure had caused havoc with my BP. I delivered Kaira through a cesarean section. Even the recovery was very long and painful. Both my pregnancies happened within such short time span that my body needed time to recover. My gynaecologist strictly told me not to plan another child.
Honestly speaking, after Kaira’s delivery I didn’t even want to go through the same pain EVER AGAIN. Motherhood is an enriching experience, but not when you are forced to give birth and especially when I did not even enjoy the birth of my second daughter.
Kaira’s news was a huge disappointment in the entire family. Any plans of a party to welcome her home were cancelled; my husband was saddened by the news as if he had lost something precious; my in-laws who came to visit me at the hospital, just remarked that ‘We wished it was a boy’.
Kaira was not welcomed home as Mira was. She was left all alone to me.
It has just been 4.5 months after Kaira’s birth and Nakul and the whole family again started talking about a third child. I was scared and shocked. Was I some kind of a baby-producing machine? Did I not have any say in the matter? What about my health and life? No amounts of my trying to convince Nakul otherwise helped.
I got him to talk to my gyanecologist also, who explained to him to not go in for third child and if he must, we should wait for few years. Nakul wanted me to change the doctor after the conversation.
And then started the humiliating rituals. I was made to go to temples, do ceremonies, walk barefoot, eat this and that, bathe with this and that, just to please the Gods to bless us with a male child. Even the astrologer checked my kundli and told me days to have an intercourse with my husband to increase my chances of having a male child--all this discussion happening in the presence of elders in the family. I was left totally shame-faced. The morning after the specified dates, my mother-in-law invaded my privacy by asking me up front if we had sex last night? I wish I died at that time.
But no one respected me. Not even my husband in the bedroom. It was less an intercourse and more of forced sex. Except for the fact that I did not resist him, it amounted to rape. There was no tenderness, no love..just a job to be done, no matter how painful or difficult or humiliating for me.
And then I conceived again. My in-laws tried all possible ways to get me tested for gender, but the fear of it being a criminal activity, stopped them.
But having conceived my baby, I started enjoying being a mother again. I thought that no matter what, I will love my baby. But no one asked me for my opinion. It seemed they were on a mission and would have in an under handed way got the baby aborted if they had found out it was a girl again.
Again due to all the pressure, complications from the previous pregnancy, and having to take care of both my girls, single-handedly, had tired my body totally. I ended up delivering Ruhaani my third daughter, pre-maturely.
No one came to visit me in the hospital when Nakul gave them the news of a third girl child. My in-laws didn’t even come to meet me. Nakul also left me at the hospital alone and went away. I was all alone for three days in the hospital with Ruhaani. They did not even bring my other two daughters to meet me or their sister. I felt forsaken. I didn’t know what to do. I wondered whether I should even go back to home or not, but then the faces of Mira and Kaira flashed before my eyes and I knew I had to go back. The day I was discharged, Nakul came in the morning, cleared the hospital bills and waited for me in the car. He did not even come to help me out of the ward. I carried my new born baby girl, and my bag, my reports and everything and walked out--all alone--of the hospital.
I have never cried as much as I cried on the way to the place called my home. I was broken, hurt, depressed, sad...at home too no one greeted me and I walked alone to my room. But the faces of both my other girls cheered me up slightly.
This was around a year and a half ago. Since, then I have brought up my three girls all alone, by myself. My mother-in-law refused to hire a maid to help me...so right from their meals, studies, clothes, bedtime, going to the parks, getting them ready in the morning..everything I have done as if I was a single parent. My family does not interfere much in my house since they are scared that what if my in-laws throw me out of the house, what a stigma it will be. There have been highs and lows, but I learnt to put them behind for my daughters’ sake.
When the lockdown happened.
And when I again overheard my family members talking amongst themselves to plan a fourth baby and this time to go through some quack of a doctor who assures male children.
The pressure is huge because with the lockdown and everyone being at home, there is literally no escape for me from this topic. Nakul and I were in love and that is why I chose to marry him. Never did I ever think that he would treat me like a birthing machine than his lover or a wife.
Every day for the past 2 months my lover, or someone I believed he was, my husband rapes me, yes rapes me because I don’t want to have sex and also because I know that everyone else in the house knows how and what my husband is doing to me.
All of this is getting onto my nerves. I cannot express my anger, I have no way of rejecting, I don’t feel safe in my own room, I am always wary for my health and well being...I know I will surely die in the attempt of having a fourth child and what then about my three little girls.
I need to save myself and I need to seek help.
Today afternoon, I will sneak out and talk to Mrs Namita Khullar, a women’s rights lawyer whom I befriended of facebook.
She has to save my life.