Shahida*, 15, was studying 9th grade when her sister – a child bride – died during child birth. She gave birth to a baby girl who also died the next day. She left two kids in the care of her husband and mother in law.
Just two weeks had passed since her death, when her mother in law came to see Shahida’s parents. She told them that she wanted to arrange another marriage for her son. She said that she was too old to take care of her motherless grandchildren, and needed someone to take care of the kids. She said a step mother would not be a good idea, and suggested that Shahida should marry her deceased sister’s husband. In her opinion, Shahida could be a good mother to the kids, because she cared for kids; they were her nephew and niece, and were quite fond of her.
Shahida’s parents thought over it. The fear of step mother for their grandchildren overpowered them. They agreed to the proposal. Shahida refused in the beginning, but the social pressure and emotional blackmailing from her parents forced her to give in.
She was married at the age of 15 to a widower 12 years older than her. He is a soldier in Pakistan Army. Soon after marriage she conceived. It got complicated and the doctors had to perform cesarean. Doctors strongly advised not to conceive again for at least three years. She conveyed this to her husband, and they both agreed to it, but her mother-in-law did not like the idea. She insisted on having another child soon. Finally, they gave in, and she conceived again.
Again, the pregnancy was complicated and delivery was through operation. Mother and child both were very weak. Doctors suggested one month bed rest. She was not able to take care of her children. She would remain depressed. She would curse the time when she had agreed to the marriage, and left her education in the middle.
Her mother in law was unhappy with the situation. She thought Shahida was just pretending to be sick, and she actually just did not want to do household chores. When her husband would come home, she would complain to him about Shahida’s lack of interest in maintaining her house, and would blame her for everything that went wrong in the house. Her husband would also rebuke her.
She continued to bear this, but it became more and more difficult to take care of 4 kids, and an insensitive, rather antagonistic, mother-in-law. Though her husband was generally kind to her, but he would not take a stand for her when his mother would be unkind to Shahida. One day, he was angry for something, when his mother complained about Shahida’s behavior. He started beating Shahida without asking for any explanation. It was too much for Shahida and proved to be the final nail in the coffin.
She took her two children (leaving her step children), and moved to her parents’ house.
Finally, one day she decided to leave her husband’s house. She took her two children along with her and moved to her parent’s home. She has refused to go back to her husband’s house. She has applied for divorce in the local court.
Now when she looks back at her life, she thinks getting married in teenage was the root cause of all her problems. She has no degree in her hand; she has poor health, and two kids to feed.
Her parents are equally or even more distressed at her situation. They regret the time when they had forced her to marry. They lost one daughter to child marriage, and then forced another into it. Now the second one, too, has no future. They are devastated. They have learnt their lesson the hard way. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
Shahida* – the name has been changed to protect her identity and privacy.