Striving for justice against all the odds

My name is Hina and I am from a far-flung village in Uttar Pradesh near the Nepal border. When I married at 20, I was training to be a paramedic. I hoped for a happy and long life with my husband. But my husband, Imtiyaz, had a doubtful character from the beginning. Though he presented himself as being well off, he never revealed his source of income to me. His greedy nature became known when he asked for a motorcycle as dowry. My mother did not acquiesce to this demand; instead, she provided me with gold and other valuables.

After marriage, we moved to Baiganwadi which is one of Mumbai’s oldest slums and hosts a large low-income population, who mostly belong to Muslim and Dalit communities. Following the expectations of a conservative Muslim woman, I tried every sort of compromise and accommodation to maintain my marriage. Over three years, I endured physical exploitation, economic extortion, physical and mental abuse. My husband manipulated me into selling off my dowry jewellery for money, saying he desperately needed to pay off the debts from our marriage expenses. All told, during our marriage, he demanded over 2,00,000 rupees from me. I had to give up my aspirations as a paramedic and work as domestic help instead. During this turmoil, I was blessed with a child, which I hoped would solve our problems. But my husband bluntly told me that me and the baby would only be allowed in his house if I had a boy. A girl would be neither welcome nor tolerated. After indeed giving birth to a baby girl, I knew I had to do something.

I was aware of CORO’s work and interventions in Baiganwadi so I approached them for help. The CORO team tried to get both me and her husband to the table many times to reconcile our problems. However, my husband remained highly abusive, even towards CORO team members. He repeatedly maintained that he would reconcile with me but under no circumstances would he allow our daughter to live with us. Once, he even attempted to murder our daughter when I was away at work, and was only barely stopped by a family member. I filed a police complaint was against him, but he was let off after just a warning - a common example of law enforcement’s callous attitude towards the grave issues we women face every day. This incident shook me and forced me to clearly see that Imtiyaz was an inhuman father, cruel husband, and immediate threat to the safety of my child.

Despite my young age and conservative background, I was able to find the strength to go against tradition and separate from an abusive partner. Steady support from my mother has helped me to stand tall and fight for my dignity and rights. Currently, I have filed a divorce case against my husband with the help of CORO. My mother is now also a member of CORO’s team, working for women’s empowerment in Baiganwadi. I have left my dark past and look forward to a peaceful and respectful life. I hope my sweet two-year-old daughter will see me as a role model, as a woman determined to get justice despite all obstacles.