Shudha Talukdar grew up with the belief that for a Hindu woman ‘husband is next to God’ and a woman is ‘incomplete without a husband’. Therefore she was very happy when her marriage was arranged with an agricultural labourer living next door who is also a relative.
Shudha comes from a fatherless poor landless family in Rafinagar, Derai, Shunamganj, mostly occupied by the Hindu minority community. She lived with her two brothers who are also seasonal agricultural labourers. The haor region remains flooded for four-five months during the monsoon swallowing the river banks. The families stockpile whatever they can during April and May. There is no work during those months even though many barely survive by catching fish and picking vegetables.
Despite all the hardship, on demand from the groom’s family Shudha’s brothers managed eight thousand taka as dowry in exchange for which she got married and went to live with her husband. Unfortunately, her dreams of living with a godlike husband lasted only for a month. Her husband turned out to be verbally abusive soon resorting to physical violence. She tolerated the torture accepting it as ‘ill fate’ until the time when her husband threw her out of the house. She had no choice but to move back with her brothers.
Her brothers together with her uncles sought help from village elders and community leaders for mediation. After several sessions Shudha’s husband agreed to take her back. Shudha went back happily but this time it lasted only for four days. Her brothers took her back as she was severely beaten.
Six years have elapsed but Shudha is still waiting for her husband to welcome her back despite knowing that he has remarried and living in another village. Shudha and girls from her Hindu neighborhood believe marriage is divine which lasts forever.
Recently, Shudha came into contact with Dulali Talukdar, a community mobilizer of CLS EJLAS project run by Assistance for Slum Dwellers (ASD). For the first time she came to know of the Hindu Marriage Registration Act and her entitlement to rights of subsistence. Discussions during the courtyard meetings made her realize that an ‘abusive husband cannot be godlike’. With the help of the project she is learning to fight back by preparing to claim her right of subsistence from her husband through mediation with the help of CLS EJLAS project.