World

100 Women: 'I got sterilised without telling my husband'

A woman looking angry

I had lied to my husband earlier too. But then, I understood the pros and cons of it. This time it felt like jumping into the unknown.

Then, the problem was different. I wanted to save some money and stop my husband from wasting it on alcohol so I lied to him, saying my salary was less than it actually was.

I knew if he found out, he would beat me.

But I was confident he wouldn't be able to withdraw the money I had hidden in the bank.

This time the problem was that my body was at risk. I'd heard women could die during this operation.

#HerChoice is a series of true life-stories of 12 Indian women. These accounts challenge and broaden the idea of the "modern Indian woman" - her life choices, aspirations, priorities and desires.

I was 22 but looked as if I was 40. My body was lean but lifeless: more like a bundle of bones.

There were dark circles under my eyes and a my face looked tired.

When I walked, it seemed as if my back was a little bent already. These were just the visible signs.

In the beginning, I didn't realise how unfair it was. I was married at 15.

When my husband came back from work, he'd want food on the table and me in bed.

I was treated as simply a body and my feelings weren't important.

My mother had explained this is how it would be and I didn't expect much else.

I had my first daughter and the first beating followed. Then he drank alcohol for the first time. Then all the anger came out in bed. Then I had my second daughter. Then he stopped working. Then I started working. Then I had my third daughter.

And so it continued.

He beat me, drank alcohol bought with the money I earned, and then used my body in bed.

But I stayed quiet. This is what happens to women, my mother had explained.

When I became pregnant with my fourth child, I had only turned 20. When my employer saw my lifeless body swell again, she got angry.

"Would you even be able to give birth?" she asked. "Does your body have that much strength?"

I thought women like me had to bear frequent pregnancies until we had a son.

I was confident that once I had a son, everything would be alright. The cruel cycle of beatings, alcohol and a hard time in bed would cease.

This time I had a son.

When the nurse stood by my hospital bed and gave me the news, I started crying.

It felt as if the weight of carrying the baby in my weak womb for nine months and the pain I had endured during 10 hours of labour vanished in that moment.

But nothing changed. Cruelty had become a habit for my husband.

My body felt very broken now. I lived in the constant fear that I might get pregnant again.

One day my employer looked at my tired face and asked, if I could change one thing in my life, what would I change.

I laughed. I had never thought of what I wanted, nor had anyone ever asked me.

"I don't want to be pregnant again but don't know how to stop my husband," I told her.

"Get sterilised," she said.

"This is the one thing in your hands. Even if you are not able to stop him at night, at least you would be able to save yourself from becoming pregnant."

She gave me the address of a clinic.

I met many women like me there. They were the ones who told me that this is a quick operation, but that if something goes wrong, it could be fatal.

I thought about it for months and finally decided to go to the clinic.

It was risky but I hoped that afterwards at least one part of my life would be under my control.

I got the operation and I didn't die. It took a few days to recover, I felt weak and in pain but everything was alright.

It has been 10 years. I'm 32 and I haven't got pregnant again.

My husband hasn't question it and is still drinking, beating me and enjoying himself in bed.

I'm doing what I need to do; working as a domestic help so that I can bring up my children.

I can't leave my husband. Neither can I change his ways, so I've got used to them.

I get peace of mind from the fact that I've been able to take care of myself in a small way.

My operation is my secret. I am proud. I was able to take at least one decision that was for me and me alone.

This is a true life-story of a woman who lives in northern India as told to BBC reporter Divya Arya. The woman's identity has been kept anonymous and the man's name changed on her request.

What is 100 Women?

BBC 100 Women names 100 influential and inspirational women around the world every year and shares their stories. Find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and use #100Women

Other stories you might like:

I divorced my husband because he couldn't satisfy me

I live with my girlfriend but I'm not a lesbian

My parents abandoned me for their love affairs