Domestic violence appears in different forms. Physical and mental abuse, sexual assault, or abandonment, domestic violence often surfaces as a gender-based crime that witnesses various approaches but always the same victim. For Saraswati, domestic violence came in the shape of her dowry-demanding husband, who regularly assaulted her for 22 years of their marriage in the pretext of not bringing money from her house. Saraswati's story was a part of a project that was conducted in 2013 with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and shined the limelight on the age-old patriarchal custom that still prevails in the Indian society despite being banned by the government.
The story of Saraswati began in the year 1990 when she was married off to a man who would rather assault her physically than keep her safe and give her respect as a wife. According to Sarawati herself, her husband thought that being the only sister of five brothers, she would bring in much more money and assets with her after marriage than ever imagined. But the reality did not match with the man’s expectations, and what followed was a two-decade-long marriage filled with abuse. Finally, the courtship ended with Saraswati’s husband walking out on her and her two children.
Recalling her days of horror, Saraswati mentioned how she sold all her jewelry to buy a piece of land for her husband, which eventually was sold out by him. Moreover, her husband would not give her money to run the house or even buy food for the children. But she had to feed her kids. So, risking her life, she took a job as a daily-wage laborer and hid the news from her husband. But that secret was short-lived, and her husband unleashed unprovoked anger on her after he came to know about Saraswati’s day job. For years, Saraswati endured physical and mental torture at the hands of her husband, who did not value her as a human being for not getting dowry. As per the husband’s patriarchal thoughts, Saraswati did not deserve respect as she did not follow the custom and get him money that he thinks he deserves.
However, Saraswati’s self-esteem and strength only grew stronger, if not weaker, after her husband abandoned her. She decided to take her life in her own hands and got a job as a security guard at a mall in a metropolitan city. She no longer questions her self-worth. Her entire future vision is to ensure that her children receive the best healthcare, education, and life. Saraswati even found solace in local Mahila Panchayat and women’s rights organizations that helped her enroll in a school and complete her studies.
But Saraswati’s story is not the only one that highlights the grim reality of domestic violence associated with dowry or any other assault. Across the stretch of India, many Saraswati’s have endured insult, beating, and molestation where the fountainhead is one thought ‘women are objects and worthless if they do not bring wealth and assets with them.’ The thought of keeping half of the population under threat from the other half is the saddest state of India and other countries. However, the time is changing, and women, as well as men, are coming forward in support of the victims that have endured cruelty at the hand of their partners, relatives, or in-laws. Today, women are fighting against their odds with the help of many government agencies and women welfare organizations that are working tirelessly to make victims self-sufficient and come out of abusive marriage.