Written by Tamanna Basu
Asha, came to Shakti Shalini from Assam. She was brought by her sister who lived with her husband in Delhi. She was twenty years old and six months pregnant. She was from a very low income, scheduled tribe family in Assam and earned a small living through agriculture. Within her neighbourhood she met a young man, Soham, and fell in love with him. He professed love and commitment and she believed him. However, through rumours and friends, she soon discovered that he was actually a married man. She confronted him with this information and broke off their relationship. At that point Soham became began to impose himself. He insisted that she have sex with him to which she refused to consent. Soham had a group of male friends in the area. He brought them all to the field where Asha would work and threatened to kill her father if she did not give in to his desires. Frightened by the number of men in the group Asha gave in to his demands. Her father was a poor man with few resources and influence. She felt far too ashamed to tell her family that she had once been in a relationship with Soham and so she concealed her ordeal from them. To protect her family from harm or death, she endured rape, violence and blackmail from Soham and, by extension, his group of friends. Eventually she became pregnant.
The level of sexual education and awareness in people, particularly in women, is so despicable that Asha was unable to diagnose her pregnancy. It was only after she missed a few of her period cycles that she took the aid of an aunt to consult a doctor. It was too late for an abortion.
Her family did not wish to deal with “the shame”. They sent Asha to Delhi to her sister who brought her to Shakti Shalini. Medical condition was critical when she came. Despite a six month pregnancy, she weighed only 36 kgs and her haemoglobin levels were extremely low. On account of such fragile health condition, Asha was kept on a special diet. At one point she experienced epileptic fits. With great difficulty we controlled her well enough to take her to a nearby Charitable Hospital. However, the hospital informed us that her case was beyond their ability to tackle and that she must be shifted to a Government Hospital. At the government hospital she was not attended to by any specialist because the resident doctors had staged a strike. She was then shifted to another hospital where she finally received proper treatment and remained for three days. In half a day Asha was made to shift three hospitals while enduring a difficult pregnancy and experiencing epileptic fits.
An ambulance was used for all her transfers and Shakti Shalini paid all medical expenses. She eventually had a sucessful delivery. A baby girl was born. Throughout her pregnancy she had maintained the decision to give her baby for adoption but when she saw her daughter, she did not want to give her away. However, fear of shame, fear of a loss of honour, fear of social criticism, lack of financial stability and myrid concerns made her take the hard call of giving her child up for adoption. Thereafter, she chose to return to her home in Assam.