I am a British citizen married into an affluent Delhi family. My husband is a practising psychiatrist at a Delhi hospital. My father-in-law is professor emeritus in psychiatry - he has worked at Safdarjung hospital and PGI Chandigarh and has been the dean of top medical institutes.
I am a licensed physician in London for the past 15 years and worked as a general practitioner there.
On the face of it, I am married into an educated, well-to-do family. I am a proud professional myself, a practising doctor, but I have been battered and bruised. My marriage has fallen apart.
Behind my shattered life lies the deep-seated, Indian male mentality that considers women a mere commodity. A mindset that seems to be prevalent across India, be it an educated household or an illiterate family in a nondescript village.
Beginning of torture
After the marriage, my husband came to the UK to stay with me and look for a job. I supported him with money and housing for one year. And all that I got in return were constant dowry demands and physical, mental and emotional torture.
Mu husband used to tell me that he would divorce me once he gets a job there. I was told he had every right to have sex with me as I was his property by virtue of marriage - something he claimed his father had told him. He was taught that he had the licence to use and abuse me as he wanted.
He filmed sexual acts
He would film sexual acts with me and later blackmailed me by threatening to upload the contents on the net.
He even said he would send the recordings to my parents. The abuse reached such a stage that once I had to call the London Metropolitan Police. But I dropped the charges against him later as I wanted to give him a chance.
My husband's family wanted me to spend my annual earnings of 90,000 pounds on them and invest it in their property business.
My husband couldn't get a job in the UK and returned to India when he felt I was not relenting. From India, he pressured me to join him in Delhi and threatened to file for a divorce if I refused. I relented to save my marriage. I gave up my flat in London, and relocated to Delhi to give my marriage another chance.
Pressure for divorce
But there was no end to my travails. The entire family ganged up against me and told me to sign the divorce petition as my husband wanted to marry again for more dowry. I was under tremendous pressure but did not relent.
I am a spiritual person but my in-laws' attitude was a shocker. They would throw my books and my deities, stop me from going to the temple or offer prayers in the house.
They would stay up late in the night watching indecent stuff and crack indecent jokes. I have no mother-in-law and my sisters-in-law live elsewhere. So, it was only men in the house - father-in-law, husband, brother-in-law and a male servant. It was like a boys' hostel.
They would put my luggage in the servant quarters. When that failed, they tried to electrocute me by leaving live geyser wires on the wet floor of the bathroom. I became pregnant but the abuse turned worse - I was often kicked and punched. And they were all qualified psychiatrists.
Despite this endless torture, I had decided that no one could force me to agree for the divorce or do something until I wanted to do so. I spoke to my sister-in-law, who was also abused in this family. She told me to lie low but it didn't work for me.
Pregnancy didn't change anything
Six weeks into my pregnancy, I left for the UK to earn and save for to-be-born child. My husband assured me that he would call me in the seventh month and take proper care. But when I came back in the eighth month of my pregnancy, things were back to square one.
My husband dropped me at my parents' place in Agra for the delivery as he didn't want to pay a single penny.
After the birth of the baby, neither my husband nor anybody from his family kept in touch and snapped ties with me.
I approached the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) following which my father-in-law rung up and threatened to implicate me in a theft case.
When I went to my husband's house to get my belongings, my brother-in-law stopped me, saying I didn't belong there. I waited for two hours in the scorching heat of May with my seven-month-old baby and then called the police.
But the police refused to file an FIR (though registered a complaint). They told me that I cannot enter the house as I did not live there. They said forced entry would be a non-cognizable offence and so they can't help me.
I was shocked. A man can be sent to jail even for a verbal abuse in England but in India, they did not even consider denial of entry to a woman's matrimonial home as a crime. My brother-in-law told me that approaching the DCW and registering a complaint of abuse was my biggest mistake and that I must pay.
I returned to my parents in Agra and filed a domestic violence suit against my in-laws which is pending hearing. I just hope that my in-laws are made to pay for their misdeeds.
Divorce is no solution
Women's safety is a big concern - both inside and outside homes. Men like my father-in-law and my husband are dual personalities - outside, they are bright minds and brilliant professionals; inside, they have a typically narrow mindset and think of women as commodities meant to be used and thrown away. They feel a woman's place is only in the kitchen and in bed.
I feel that divorce is not a solution in such cases. The laws must be stringent enough to change the mindset of men towards the fairer sex.
Divorce is only a ticket for such people to go scot-free, looking for another prey. Only effective and women-friendly laws can make them think twice before treating the institution of marriage as a business arrangement.
(The writer's name has been withheld to protect her identity)