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Internet saves a domestic violence victim

I met Sameena two years back in Hyderabad. She was soft spoken, reserved girl with high regard for family values.
She dropped by to my city Coimbatore soon after we met.
She was pursuing her medical grad. Early last month, I received a call from a new number and it was none other than Sameena. I want to email you, something has happened here. Its serious, she said.
I was a little shocked and wondered what was wrong. She said she could not explain over the phone. Slowly, she opened up saying that she had an inter religious marriage with a Hindu boy and her own parents were beating her up day in and out. The horrific story of what she went through in two months is something that I want to leave away here.
She had to recover mentally and physically. Her laptop was taken away, cutting her access to internet. Her smartphone had an internet connection and she used that to mail the lawyer. Noticing this, the family refused to give her money or recharge her phone for using the internet. For me, digesting the fact took time. I was enraged about her submission to these horrific events. I decided to stand by her.
Thanks to the internet, I quickly recharged her phone internet from here. She then sent me the mails, her marriage certificate and her degree documents, just in case, they seize it from her. She got them all scanned after I told her to do so. The next thing was getting out of the house. And then where would she go and what would she do? Her newly wed hubby backed off and stopped communicating fearing for his parents. Her parents were beating her to their fancy. I searched online for women support groups in Hyderabad and found some numbers. It was impossible for her to venture out of the house as she was under constant scrutiny. She kept emailing me all updates through her phone internet discreetly. One night, she overheard that her parents were planning to take her away from the city and marry her off to another man. She could not bear it anymore. Elections were due in the state. Post that, all plans were made. She just had one day. I quickly found the women commission's cell in the state and spoke to a senior official there. Thank God, they have mobile phones listed on their site. She was travelling and wanted to meet Sameena in three days. I told this to her. The lady promised to help her.

Without much of thought, she left the house one morning on the pretext of getting a govt card. Her brother dropped her off there and gave her half an hour to finish the work. He was to pick her in half an hour. She fled from there to the commission office. The office did not have people that day and she decided to come here. I transferred money into her account, thanks to internet banking here! She changed three buses and reached the next day.

She felt better and I told her to mentally recoup. I looked at legalities and possibilities of what she could do and felt strongly about the women's commission. After two days, post speaking to lawyers and asking for advice, I bought her tickets and send her off to Hyderabad women's commission cell. That was the only legal option and solution. Running away is only temporary. The commission gives strong protection, the lawyer told me. I told her what all to do and she followed. The demure girl that she was, broke down and then emerged strong. She went to the commission office, wrote a written complaint and she was given shelter there. I was relieved.

The case is going on and Sameena is now a stronger individual, with faith, hope and belief. Through this helping process, I found out that people could actually file an online complaint in the women's commission site. So, for women who are suppressed in the house, just with an internet connection, complaint can be made and action will be taken.

The digital world has changed the way things function. The accessibility to people is easy, getting information is easy, giving money to someone is easy and finding solutions is easy. I also found out that Domestic Violence Act of 2005 is applicable only for violence from the husband's family. So, Sameena could not file a complaint against her parents, but she could do so in the court as a separate complaint. As I write this, Sameena has found a job in the NGO. She is now empowered and all set to make her life better. I remember how she spoke about noticing smaller things and joys in life when she was travelling from Hyderabad to Coimbatore. The greenery, the scenes and breathing fresh air, away from people and cacophony was real freedom.

Today, with increase to accessibility of internet, women do see a change. There are a host of applications for security purposes. The digital revolution is here to make things better, only if used for the right reasons.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Women Weave the Web Digital Action Campaign. Learn more »

Comments

susa's picture

My heart sank and soared!

Dear Sharada,
As I first read your story of Sameena, my heart sank and I was filled with sadness and anger. But as I read on, my heart soared, applauding your bravery, your willing to reach out to Sameena with not only the technological tools she needed but with your knowledge, friendship and vital psychological support. You are to be commended for pointing out how in so many steps, internet technology made it possible to help Sameena, but without you, the person behind each action, all the technology in the world would have failed her! So, a big thanks to you for being who you are. I hope you will continue to tell this story to help others see that the conveniences we often use (recharging our cell phones via the net, internet banking, etc.) are not just conveniences for ourselves but can go so far as to save the lives of others! I am glad that Sameena made it through this terrible ordeal and hope she will be able to pay it forward to help others who might find themselves in equally traumatic situations.
All the best,
Susa

sharadawrites's picture

Thank you

Dear Susa,

Many thanks for your kind words of appreciation. At that point I did feel as a woman what would be going through her. Also, it was more a question of standing up for someone. Even today, Sameena's battle isn't over but she has moved away from both the families. She is alone but she is stronger. I hope many women get inspired by her story and know that today in India, women abuse is not taken casually. The women's support groups are strong and they give shelter.

Tam's picture

The Power of One Connection

Dear Sharada,

I share completely the response beautifully stated by Susa. I am also so happy to have your news that Sameena continues to be safe and free. Many would have feared to become involved at the level that you did, and indeed, you are the reason that she found the strength and path out. Not only did you help her, you have shown us all important details to think about, and solutions to be ready to offer. These solutions can now be sent far and wide. It is also, in the global sense, so very important that each story of abuse that women are being or have been subjected to, is reported as completely as you have managed to do. Our collective voices are finally reaching a point that we cannot be ignored, and the more public each story, the better chance that it will reach the ears of women still trying to escape. You have offered a critically important blueprint, and demonstrated courage that can now inspire others. What a celebration to read of Sameena emerging from this, strong and now free. Thank you for writing this and making it possible for all of us to pay attention to what is going on in India. So many in the world are finally watching. My heart is with you.

With love in Sisterhood,

Tam

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