“Till I die I will be there for her,” Ravi said.
SOUTH DELHI— When Ravi’s* wife asked him to help her step-brother find a job in Delhi, he politely agreed and welcomed the brother and his family into his house. Ravi had moved to Delhi from a village in a bordering state and eventually found work as a gardener in his neighborhood. He knew the challenges the big city brings, especially in providing for his daughter and six sons.
“We gave them food and shelter because their financial condition was very bad,” Ravi said.
The brother-in-law stayed for a few weeks, sharing meals and eventually settling into a house next door. Ravi never imagined what his children’s uncle would do.
One day 15-year-old Jwala* stayed home alone from school. Her uncle raped her. He threatened her not to tell anyone because no one would believe her. A few days later, the uncle abused her again.
Jwala kept her rape a secret until five months later, when her mother began questioning Jwala’s bulging stomach despite how little she ate: Jwala was pregnant. When she told her parents who abused her, they immediately filed a complaint against the uncle to police, who quickly arrested him.
“It was like being stabbed in the back,” Ravi said.
The Child Welfare Committee, a government body, allowed Jwala to move into a shelter home so the staff could monitor her pregnancy. Living in the shelter home also protected Jwala from suspicions of neighbours, whose comments could have re-traumatized her, and her own relatives who began pressuring Jwala and her parents to drop the case against the uncle.
First the uncle’s wife threatened to kill Jwala. Then she threatened to tell the neighborhood that Jwala was pregnant. She also emotionally blackmailed Jwala’s mother, asking how could she allow her brother to go to jail.
But Ravi never stopped supporting his wife and only daughter. “I just want the happiness of my family,” he said.
“I want [the accused] to be punished because otherwise he will go scot-free and continue to do the same with others,” Ravi said. “I am indebted to CSJ because you’ve kept us motivated to pursue the case.”
Ravi did his best to keep Jwala’s abuse quiet, out of concern for her emotional well-being. He told Jwala’s school and curious neighbors that Jwala went to his native village to care for his sick mother. He even kept the rape secret from his parents, to protect Jwala from the stigma people may place on her and from any misplaced feelings of shame.
Jwala’s baby was given for adoption and she returned to her family in a new home, away from the uncle. Her father arranged the move so she could focus on a fresh start.
In June, Jwala said she’s looking forward to classes starting in July. She enjoys writing poems.
“She’s been doing well,” Ravi said. “She’s been talking, is very interested in her studies and helps her brothers with the household chores. I feel good about the fact that she has overcome this.”
The uncle likely will remain in jail without bail until the trial’s end. Jwala and her mother have completed testimonies in court with support from HAQ/CSJ. Ravi will give his testimony at a hearing this summer.
“Till I die I will be there for her,” Ravi said. “The relationship I have with my daughter is the same after the incident, no change. Whatever makes her happy makes me happy.”
*Name changed to protect identity.