Born and raised in a family along with her seven sisters and a brother, Jasvinder Sanghera grew up in a conservative family that disallowed girls to talk to outsiders to protect the family’s honor. Jasvinder and her sisters were continuously monitored for their behavior to ensure that the same ‘honor’ is protected. The environment Jasivinder grew up in did not allow any kind of individual freedom.
During her childhood, Jasvinder observed how her sisters were withdrawn from British School and married forcefully at the tender age of 15. While she witnessed her sisters marrying strangers and lived a miserable life thenceforth, she also witnessed that her brother enjoyed all sorts of human freedom including freedom to chose the person he wanted to marry.
Jasvindar was at the age of 14 when she was shown a picture of a man and told that the person is her to-be husband, she had just returned from school and it was extremely shocking for her to know that she is supposed to marry a stranger. Jasvindar also learned that she was ‘promised’ to the man a few years ago when she was 8-yrs-old. Being expected to contemplate marriage, Jasvinder refused to marry a man who was much older than her and was called ‘a different child as he was born upside down’. None of her elder sisters protested when similar things happened to them. She was allowed to go back to school but the pressure intensified when she turned 15.
Jasvinder’s family started preparing for her wedding. When she protested, they forced her out of school and locked her inside a room until she agreed to get married. She was not allowed to even go to the toilet and food was brought to her inside the room. She was brought up to believe that the honor of the family is in her hands. In the end, Jasvinder agreed to the marriage to plan her escape.
In the final year of school, at the age of 16, Jasvinder ran 150 miles away from home to be safe. Her parents reported her missing to the police and after being found out by a police officer, she pleaded him not to send her back home. She was asked to phone home and tell her parents that she was safe and well. On the call, her mother told her that she should marry that stranger, else, she would be considered dead by the family. Given the choice, Jasvinder chose to stay outside the home as a disowned child.
Jasvindar had a secret relationship with her elder sister Robina who suffered a horrible marriage. She was beaten up regularly – abused mentally and physically. When Jasvinder asked Robina to leave her husband and stay with her, she refused as Jasvinder was unanswerable to people after being disowned. She said, “you don’t have to care about family’s honor but I am supposed to.” But Robina agreed to talk to her parents to resolve the issue. Robina taled to her parents but the family did not agree and forced Robina to stay with her perpetrators – this resulted in Robina committing suicide at the age of 24 by setting herself on fire.
But, even after this tragic incident, what surprised Jasvinder was her family’s response to her sister’s death. They said, “she made a better choice by ending her life instead of leaving her husband to harm the family’s honor.” This proved to be the turning point in Jaswinder’s life and she started the charity ‘Karma Nirvana’ – helping men and women affected by honor-based abuse and forced marriage. She established a helpline in 2008 funded by the government, which has received 30,000 calls to date from the UK alone. The charity has made forced marriage a criminal offense, helps refuge and plan escapes.
Today, Jasvinder is a proud mother of three children. Her daughter Natasha married an Indian boy whom she met in college. Jasvinder was worried because she did not want her daughter to marry an Asian boy. She feared that because she escaped home and was disowned by her parents, her daughter may have to suffer after marrying and an Asian man. But her fears were completely unfounded when she met this Indian family who did the opposite of what her family did.
Jasvinder is a true hero. She eventually learned to face her fears- from beating herself up every day for what her family did, to accept that she was not the bad person and the perpetrator and forgiving them. Through Karma Nirvana, she encourages people to break their silence and makes them believe that even without their families there is a world outside to help them. Jasvindar knows that her family is never going to inherit the legacy of abuse because of one decision she made when she was 16.
If you like this story, share it and spread positivity. Tell us your views by writing in the comment box below. We read each one of them.