Today, one of our street moms, Kamini (name changed to protect her identity), came to our morning program in tears, her kids in tow. Last night, her husband hit her---and badly---on her face and head a few times. Her head hurt a lot, she said. She then told us that left the house and took her kids with her. They slept outside last night, near a temple.
Kamini has come a long way in terms of taking care of herself and her kids, and her general demeanor and how she carries herself in her life has improved dramatically. Today, her reaction this time was a little different---in the past when husband hit her, she just sort of accepted that husbands beat their wives on occasion, and all of her friends accept that such abuse is just what happens if a wife upsets her husband. Rarely do they want to report their husbands to the police. Today, Kamini looked disgusted with him and then asked if she and her kids could stay at Karunya Mane for a few days, saying "gandha beda," "I don't want my husband."
We asked Mary (the woman filing for divorce from her abusive husband) if she would talk to Kamini since they are both at KM, and share with her the abuse she endured from her abusive husband and what she is doing now to finally free herself from the situation.
There's a lot written about the belief that many destitute Indian women have regarding their status as second-class citizens behind the men in this society. Of course, many men believe this as well and perpetuate the inequality through abuse, dictatorial marriages, and the dowry system. A few women, in their hearts, may not believe this to be true, but for them to actually do something about it in this society is difficult, given social pressures.
We aren't sure if Kamini will ever leave her husband, or whether it even matters legally, since they may not be offically married (often, the destitute just sort of live together and have kids but never get married for the record). In any case, we are beginning to put the idea in her head that it is perfectly acceptable, and in fact possible, to leave an abusive, alcoholic husband, especially with Mary setting an example.