Musku Roja’s fight for autonomy over her body and life.
Musku Roja, 22 year old woman and a resident of Hasanparthi village in Warangal, Telangana worked as sex worker to earn her daily bread and pay the impending debts of her family. Meanwhile, Roja met an auto driver Venkatesh, a resident of district Malla Reddypalli (Telangana), and fell in love with him. After a few days, they both decided to marry, where Venkatesh took Rs.60,000 and 4 grams of gold from her for security. They both eloped to the district of Guntur (Telangana), and stayed there for 8 months, when Roja got pregnant. During one of her visits to the doctor, she came back home only to find her husband missing. She waited for him for three days, and finally the realisation dawned upon her.
Her husband had left her.
Heartbroken, she came back to her hometown. But she was in for a far bitter surprise as her family refused to accept. Roja, then went to the police station where her family members were called. The police officers tried to convince them to take her back till they could find Venkatesh, but her family out rightly refused. As Roja already had a couple of cases for soliciting sex work registered against her, neither the police officers nor her family members were ready to support or help her. From a helpless situation, a ray of hope came from Rudrama Devi Mahila Mandali (RDMM), a community based organisation and a partner of Alliance India which works for female sex workers. She approached the Board President, Ms. Nilambari to seek justice.
The Board President, along with Roja and the RDMM staff, went to meet the sarpanch
(the head of village) of Siddhapur village, Ms. Eshwaramma and explained the whole issue. The sarpanch understood the problem and assured them that she would solve the problem. Later, the sarpanch contacted Venkatesh’s uncle and explained to him about Roja’s condition, when his uncle agreed to bring Venkatesh to Siddhapur gram panchayat (the village court) to solve the issue. But neither he nor his nephew turned up. The CBO (community based organisation) members then planned to meet the village sarpanch and pushed for her fight to justice. The CBO officers explained the issue, and finally, the sarpanch called Venkatesh and his family members to the village panchayat, where only Venkatesh and his uncle turned up. The panchayat and the CBO decided that Venkatesh has to pay a compensation of INR 80,000 to Roja.
As Roja was affected with polio, her physical condition brought complications in her pregnancy. And since there was no space for the baby to rotate in her womb (her abdomen was affected by the condition), the doctor suggested that abortion was the only way to save her life. On the suggestion of doctors and CBO staff, Roja and her family decided to take the decision to abort the foetus. Later, the CBO convinced the family members and asked them to take Roja to their home. Extremely grateful for the support of the CBO, her mother was in tears and said “I was worried about my daughter’s life but the CBO understood my pain and reacted quickly to help my daughter. I whole heartedly thank the CBO for saving my daughter”. Roja had no words to express, except tears of joy. Musku Roja finally had a real smile, mirroring her name, after months of turmoil.
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