Dhanwati’s Struggle to Provide for her Family

Posted on July 11, 2012, by by Dhanwati for Apne Aap

My name is Dhanwati and I am 40 years old. I was born in Rewadi, Haryana, and I belong to the agricultural labour family of the Perna community. I was married when I was only 16 years old.

My husband used to abuse alcohol and show cruelty towards me and beat me every day so I divorced him through our Panchayat (local self-government). I was pressured by my parents to once again marry someone. By this time I had six children and my new husband was unemployed so I struggled trying to provide for my family. I turned to prostitution to earn a living for my entire family.

Everyday I used to go to different red light areas and work as a prostitute. I was forced to deal with all types of customers. Not every customer was kind to me. Many were bad men who said that would threaten me with genital mutilation if I did not obey their commands. Even dealing with such bad customers, my daily earning were only 500 INR ($9) so it was still difficult for my family to survive on such a small amount of money.


Women helped by Apne Aap (Photo courtesy Apne Aap)

The house is only two rooms but houses my husband and me, our two sons and their wives — who are also prostitutes — and our three unmarried daughters. Even though I provide all the money and my husband remains unemployed, I have no right over my own house; it is entirely my husband’s decision as to whether I have a right to the house. My husband also argues with me about our money issues. Even though I am 40 years old I must work as a prostitute to provide for my family and my husband will not work to help provide for our family. This is very frustrating and pains me a lot.

I attended Apne Aap’s legal clinic in Prem Nagar and shared my story with the staff. I hope to take the lessons I learned during the clinic about my rights as a woman and better my situation. 

Dhanwati is 40 years old and lives in Prem Nagar, India. Learn more about Apne Aap's work to empower women.