ཡུམ། Tibetan Women's Reality

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Interview With an Anonymous Tibetan Woman (Part 1)

(PHOTO BY BRIAN SNELSON COURTESY OF FLICKR)

(PHOTO BY BRIAN SNELSON COURTESY OF FLICKR)

The last interview with a Tibetan woman posted here caused more trouble than expected, so this time the identity of the woman is being kept anonymous. Although I believe this woman has nothing to be ashamed of I also recognize that she needs to live in this community. My hope is that her story provokes thought on the issues she faced and her strength inspires us all.

Kunsang Dolma: How did you meet your husband?

Anonymous: After I finished school I didn’t have a permanent resident book. It was hard to live without being a permanent resident, but I always planned on going home when I finished school. When school ended I wasn’t sure what to do, I wanted to go home but I had no money. In the meantime someone I knew introduced me to my husband. I didn’t have any boyfriends in school, I didn’t trust anyone, I thought they might just use me then go away. I trusted my husband in part because my friend said he was a good man, and because he seemed like he really was a nice person. I went to ask a lama if he was a good person to be my husband, the lama threw moh and said yes he was. Even though the lama said he was good I still didn’t feel totally comfortable, I was still worried I couldn’t trust him. On the other hand, I had to live somehow, so I decided it was best to get married.

He was nice for awhile once we started to live together. He was nice for awhile, but he slowly changed, he started to beat me and frequently brought another woman back to his restaurant. He’d let this woman eat for free and take money out of his pocket. She’d say she needed a little money for meat or something and he let her take it. I suspected he didn’t tell her I was his wife, it looked like he told her I was his employee, that’s the way she treated me. I was worried about what was going on. He said she was just his best friend.

After I got pregnant I asked him again why she kept coming, and why she got so much money and free food. He told me it was none of my business, to focus on work at the restaurant. The next time I asked, he got angry and severely beat me, complaining that we were both treating him like a servant. I began to get seriously worried. His behavior was already bad before I got pregnant and I didn’t want to have a baby with him anyway, but I didn’t know anything about birth control and ended up pregnant.

KD: Did you try to find birth control?

A: I didn’t know anything about birth control. The only thing I did was wish I didn’t get a baby. After I got pregnant, he changed a lot from the way he used to be. His actions and the way he talked both changed. He started to beat me over every small thing. Working in the restaurant so much made me tired and I didn’t feel well. He didn’t care. He continued to beat me for small things and had me work all the time. He said it was too early for us to have a baby, we didn’t need a baby yet, and there would be time for that later. He wanted me to get an abortion. I was shocked he said that, we weren’t young anymore and I couldn’t understand what kind of husband didn’t even want his own baby. Now what could I do? I was already pregnant and he didn’t want to take care of us.

I wanted to leave him, he wasn’t taking care of me the baby anyway, but I didn’t have anywhere to go. I stayed until I was seven months pregnant. One day he beat me again, he beat me many times, he got angry so easily. Whenever he got angry his hands were always ready to beat me. This time I could see that he was angry and coming for me, I said, “Hey! What are you doing? I have the baby, be careful!” That made him more angry, he grabbed a Coca-Cola bottle to hit me with and said “So what? I want to kill you both.” He hit me in the stomach with the bottle as much and as hard as he could. He kicked and stomped on me too, I couldn’t get up from the ground. He also hit my face, my whole face got swollen.

The next morning, I couldn’t feel any movement from the baby in my stomach. The baby was all the way over to the left side, I didn’t feel any movement all night, and my stomach was so uncomfortable, it felt painful. Of course he didn’t want to take me to a doctor. I got ready to see a doctor anyway as soon as I could. I walked to lower Dharamsala to find a doctor. I met a nurse in the street. She saw me from far away and came toward me as soon as she saw me. She said, “what happened to you?” She could see my face was swollen, I had no shoes on my feet, and I had no purse with me. I told the nurse my husband beat me. She said, “Oh my gosh! Your husband beat you? He knows you’re pregnant. Are you guys married?” I told her yes, he tried to kill me and the baby and that I didn’t feel any movement from the baby all night and my stomach hurt. I told her I needed to see a doctor but I didn’t have any money, I didn’t have anything. The nurse quickly got a taxi for me and paid for it to take me to the hospital.

They gave me an ultrasound at the hospital, the baby was okay but barely breathing and pushed all the way to one side. The doctor massaged the baby back to where he was supposed to be. I got a little more comfortable, still not quite right, I could feel the baby’s head was pushing too much to one side. The doctor said the baby was unhealthy. I thought to myself that I wasn’t surprised the baby was unhealthy, my husband beat me often, I wasn’t eating enough, and I was working all the time. Mostly I worked and cried. I knew from another doctor I saw before that I didn’t have enough blood in my body. I needed medicine but my husband never gave me money to buy it. Sometimes I felt very sad because nobody ever cared to make sure I got enough to eat and was healthy. I didn’t have any family there and he didn’t care at all. The doctor said it looked like I had a really terrible husband because nobody else beat their pregnant wife. If the baby died the mother would die too, it was very dangerous.

The doctor asked what my plan was, if I had any family I could go live with. I told him I didn’t have any family or friend to live with. I said, “Please don’t send me back. Do you have any idea where I can go? I can’t go back, he will try to kill us.” I explained that people thought he was a nice person but he always beat me and came back late at night drunk, he’d kicked anything he saw the minute he walked in the door. He usually started by kicking our little dog then came to beat me. The doctor and nurse talked with each other for awhile, they thought maybe I could see the Tibetan Women’s Association. The doctor said it would be easy for the baby to die if he even hit me again a little bit in the stomach, nothing like that could happen again. I didn’t know what to do, I had nowhere to go and if I went back there was a good chance we’d both die.

After a few days the doctor called my husband. He brought us both into his office, and asked my husband, “Is this your wife,” and my husband said yes. He asked, “Is this your baby,” and my husband said yes. He asked, “Do you want this baby,” and my husband said yes. My husband went down on his hands and knees, talking nicely about how sorry he was. He promised he would never do anything like that again. I didn’t trust him. When he beat me he looked like a monster. He’d grab my head and slam it into a wall, it looked like his plan would be to kill me or cause serious damage. Although I didn’t trust him, he talked so nicely the doctor trusted him and sent us back together. So then we got a taxi and went home. Just as he opened the door when we got home, we weren’t even in the house, he started to get angry and point his finger at me, saying “Today you made me embarrassed. How dare you?” All the promises he made to the doctor meant nothing, he quickly went back to the way he was before. He came towards me like he was going to beat me, so I ran away outside. I was outside wishing I had somewhere to go, family or a best friend or someone. I didn’t know how the baby and I could live with my husband, he never treated me like his wife or the baby like his kid. I had to think about who would take care of me after the baby was born if I stayed with him.

Six months after the baby was born, he went back to Tibet. The reason was he had a wife and four kids I didn’t know about. He didn’t tell me, I never knew, if I knew who would stay with someone who already had a wife and kids? I’m not stupid. He already planned to get them, maybe that’s why he was trying to kill me and the baby, he wanted to get rid of us before his wife and kids came. I never knew, he didn’t tell me. He went crazy after he found out I was pregnant, he beat me worse after that. He beat me before too, but it was worse after he found out I was pregnant.

KD: Were you still with him when you gave birth?

A: No, I wasn’t. One day he was in the restaurant during dinner, he was angry, it looked like he was getting ready to beat me again. He told me to just wait for the customers to leave and I what see what happened. The doctor had already told him the baby was unhealthy, if he even touched my stomach there was a good chance the baby would die. He didn’t care. I couldn’t let him get that chance, I had to flee from him while there were still customers. It was dark when I ran out, there was really nowhere to go, I ran out into the woods. I stayed out in the woods overnight. It was uncomfortable, I couldn’t get to sleep. I got up with the first light to make my way to McLeod Ganj to look for the Women’s Association. Somebody had told me there was a women’s association, but I didn’t know where it was. I looked around and asked people. Finally I found it and told them my whole story. I told them he was my husband but never treated me like a wife, he looked like a monster always trying to kill us. He never had compassion or felt sorry for anything he did. He made a lot of promises that he never kept.

They helped me with three hundred rupees (about $5) each month. They said I shouldn’t go back to my husband, and they wanted to know if I had papers from the doctor showing the problem with the baby. I didn’t have anything with me, not even my purse or one rupee. All I had was what I was wearing. I just got out of there, each time he beat me he exactly hit my stomach. I don’t understand why he hid everything. He didn’t say anything about his wife and kids. If he told me they were on the way I would have been happy to leave, he didn’t need to kill us. I am human being, we could have talked. He could have asked me to leave, he didn’t need to kill me, I could have left when he asked. I guess he needed me to stay to work at the restaurant.

He had a lot of friends, he gave free tea to lots of people at the restaurant, lots of people got free meals, he had many friends. Everybody thought he was a really nice person, they thought I was the bad guy. It looked to them like he was so nice, they wouldn’t believe he put me in the situation I was in. People made him the victim in the story and me the bad guy. It got switched. If he was a nice person, why didn’t he help us at all when I was pregnant with an unhealthy baby and couldn’t pay any rent? What kind of person is like that?

When the baby was born there was a problem, the doctors put him in a machine for awhile. He was barely breathing.

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