This week I’m writing about Katharine Bushnell’s first contacts with the hapless young women held in the British chakla (military brothel) in 1892. I’m surrounded by articles, books, notes I’ve taken—until I feel immersed in that culture over almost 125 years ago. But. . .
The plight of women in India is never ending
Hear the story of the wife of one of the men sentenced to hang for being one of the four rapists that so damaged a young university student, she died several days later. The story has shocked India, and it seems the courts have finally seen that justice will be done.
But Punita Devi may die too. Not that she’s done anything wrong. But she’s the wife of a murderer and no one in her village or family will take her and her two year old boy in. It isn’t because of the murder; it’s because they claim they can’t afford her. The in-laws don’t want her now that their rapist son is out of work and can’t send money to cover the family’s expenses. Her own family doesn’t want her back because they are already trying to feed too many people from the small income on their one-acre holding. After-all, that’s why they married her off, and sent her with a dowry – a bed and some kitchen utensils.
Punita has had no education. She was taken out of school as a young girl to help in the home since her mother was ill. And even if she were educated, the traditions would not allow her to work outside the home. Her mother-in-law bluntly states, “In our family women die at home. They never venture outside.” The customs of purdah practiced in the region make it almost impossible for her to work outside the home.
So will Punita and her son pay the price for her husband’s crime? Where will she go for help? Oh yes, her last name, Devi, means “goddess.”
Information condensed from a full-page article in The Wall Street Journal, Tuesday, September 24,1013, A16