Kusum Rathore, a 30-year-old Andheri resident, who is doubling up as a maid and a beautician, is terrified to go back and reside with her husband. In 2007, Kusum had attempted to end her life by pouring kerosene and setting herself ablaze, but the matchstick failed to ignite. Her husband barged into the bathroom and dragged her out. Following her suicide attempt, her in-laws threatened to kill her and make the murder look as a suicide, alleges Kusum.
Thanks to our societal pressure, Kusum is yet to lodge a police complaint or approach a women help group against her in-laws and her husband. When she initially wanted to, her own family members dissuaded her. Kusum has been single-handedly looking after herself and her daughter for the past five years.
Just three months into her marriage with Shankar Rathore, a sweeper with a private construction company in 2005, Kusum faced repeated dowry demands from her in-laws. On her refusal to fulfill their demands, she was sent back to her mother’s house where she stayed for over a year and gave birth to her daughter. An attempt was made to resettle her with her husband, who according to Kusum, never made any attempt to see their child. “I was subjected to constant physical and mental abuse,” said Kusum. Her problems worsened when her mother, who was initially supportive, started pressurizing her to go back. “My sister-in-law has now started pressurizing my mother to send me back to my husband’s place, because she fears that I will get a fair share in my father’s property. I do not want any property, I just want to lead a peaceful life with my daughter,” she pleaded.
Kusum’s fate now depends on her caste panchayat’s verdict, “I sure that the panchayat will send me back to my husband’s house. I do not wish to go back. Moreover, our daughter does not even recognize him.”
Commenting on Kusum’s situation, managing partner of Law Quest, Poorvi Chothani, said, “Ideally, Kusum should lodge a formal complaint with the police, because she is financially independent. Many women who face this kind of torture do not report it, as they are finically dependent on their abusive husbands. Besides money, the stigma and fear of ruining the reputation of the family is what forces them to keep mum.”
Advocate Pooja Kute from Majlis, seconds Chothani. “Most of the time, women are unsure about the next step. They want peace and independence, but they don’t know that for the same, they need to claim alimony, which they are entitled to. In fact, Kusum can easily register a complaint against her husband under Section 125 of CrPC and claim maintenance for herself and her daughter.”
Last week, Kusum registered a non-cognizable complaint (NC) against her own brother, who had physically assaulted her.