July 15, 2020
Unbridled tears of joy accompanied the reunion of Payal and her daughter Jaya (names changed) after 9 months of painful separation. In February 2020, we had shared the story of this indomitable young mother who would stop at nothing to protect her three daughters. Her husband and his family had tortured her for 8 years in her marital home. On a fateful evening in November 2019 she decided that her three daughters and she would suffer no longer. When she returned to her parents’ home that cold night, her husband had cruelly held back her second daughter, to force Payal to come back to him.
Earlier today, on the long drive with her mother and lawyers to the family court where she would be reunited with her daughter, Payal was both ecstatic and nervous. She thought of all the nights when she had cried herself to sleep, longing to embrace her daughter. The joy of their reunion, two days before her daughter’s fifth birthday, would wash away all the tears. At the same time, she was worried if her husband would do something at the last minute to deny her the custody of her daughter. She had won a tough legal battle for custody after moving the district court and High Court on multiple occasions.
On 13 July, the High Court passed an order stating that the custody of the child would have to be given to the mother before 17 July. The father had delayed granting custody of the child under various pretexts, even blaming the prevalence of COVID-19 near Payal’s parental home as a reason. The Court found no merit in these delay tactics. The father was found to have not complied with the interim order of the district court to hand over custody in January 2020.
Payal was blessed to have the support of her parents in her struggle. Her mother stood bravely beside her at the court today when her husband and his relatives surrounded them with menacing looks. Payal also felt stronger in the company of the ADF India lawyers who were more than just lawyers to her, they were family. They had fought this battle together for 9 months and now they were celebrating her victory with her. Also, criminal proceedings against the husband and his family are to continue.
Payal’s troubles in her marital home began when her first child was born. The abuse multiplied at the birth of her second child and reached the tipping point after the birth of her third child. Why? Because she had given birth to three daughters and her husband’s family wanted a son. And now Payal and daughters would be punished. But this mother has managed to save the lives of her daughters and her own.
Sadly, Payal’s story is not unique.
ADF India is committed to continue providing legal aid to mothers like Payal who suffer because they choose to give birth to daughters and love them. We aim to eradicate sex-selective abortions in our lifetime and save the lives of thousands of girls who are killed in the womb every day. We are advocating for the strict enforcement of the Pre-Conception Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.