Saturday, May 29, 2010

(Editor's Note : - this BBC story was initially published in  5 April 2006; but not much has changed for trafficked women in India since......)

Anwari Khatoon came visiting a relative in the northern Indian state of Haryana eight months ago, but ended up getting married against her will to a local man with six children from a previous marriage.
A man from her village in eastern Jharkhand state had accompanied the 22-year-old woman on her journey to Haryana.
When she arrived in the village, Anwari found the man and her relative pressuring her to marry the man with six children, a middle-aged truck driver.
Her new husband paid 10,000 rupees ($220) to the man who brought her to the village.
"Can a young, single girl get married to a father of six willingly?" asks Anwari.
"It is all fate. What has happened has happened. What can I do? My parents didn't even get any money from this deal."
Anwari is among the several thousand young women from all over India who are literally sold-off to men in Haryana, a state notorious for its low ratio of girls to boys.

The going rate for buying a girl in the state is anything between 4,000 and 30,000 rupees ($88 to $660).

Sex slaves

A cultural preference for sons over daughters has skewed India's sex ratio in places like Haryana.
As a result of female foeticide, there are about 861 women for every 1,000 men in Haryana, according to the last census. The national average is 927 women to 1,000 men.
Since there aren't enough local women to marry, Haryana's men pay touts to bring women for them to marry and to work on their farms.



Social activists reckon most of these women end up being used as sex slaves and then resold to other men in what looks like a flourishing market in trafficking of women.
The head of Asawati village told us about a girl called Ajmeri who arrived last month from the state of West Bengal in eastern India. She told the village head that "some people had come to see me and offered 10,000 rupees ($220)".
We went to look for Ajmeri. But when we reached her home she wasn't there. Her neighbours told us that she "may have been taken away by somebody" to another village.


Vicious cycle

These young women who are sold off as brides against their will are known in Haryana as 'paros'.
According to one estimate, there are almost 45,000 paros here from the dirt-poor, eastern tribal state of Jharkhand alone.
Touts pay their poor parents anything between 500 to 1,000 rupees (about $11 to $22) to take the daughter.


A 'paro' from Bihar
There are 45,000 'paros' from Jharkhand alone

Social activists say Haryana exemplifies the vicious cycle of exploitation of women and represents a society which does not respect women.
Haryana minister Randeep Singh Surjewala says the government is aware of the problem.
"Whenever we get complaints we take action. We are also trying to educate people socially and address the sex ratio problem," he says.
Last month a doctor and his assistant in Haryana were sentenced to two years in jail for revealing the sex of a female foetus and then agreeing to abort it. It was the first time offenders had been sent to jail for this offence.

Shakti Vahini is one NGO trying to help the paros by rescuing them and sending them to a safe home run by the state government.

In one case a man stands accused of beheading his paros wife because she refused to sleep with his brothers.

"There is a lack of political will, so no government is taking any steps to curb this problem," says Sanjay Mishra, who runs a voluntary group in Jharkhand associated with rescuing these women.
Meanwhile, Haryana's infamous market in women continues to flourish. 

India's 'bride buying' country

Saturday, May 22, 2010

One of the most telling things about a society is how it treats its women, that half of its population which lives, works and struggles to contribute to the family, community and society at large, In a larger sence, what defines a society is how it treats its poorest, weakest and most vulnerable members.


Parts of Haryana today present a rather vicious picture, far removed from the moral parameters or principles on which any progressive society is built. for the brokers of human trafficking, Haryana, is the point of demand of consumers, the buyers of a women's dignity.
women are brought here from different parts of country, most of them from Magadh belt of Bihar-Jharkhand; Musrshidabad in west bengol; the border areas of Assam and secunderabad; and hydrabad in Andhra Pradesh- all poverty stricken muslim areas. These women are promised marriage of inducted as farm labourers but the real purpose is to center them into the sale-purchase chain to provide sexual satisfaction to their buyers. The price fixed for them depends on their age and physical appearance.
These women referred to as Paaro in the Mewat (Muslim area of Haryana) and as 'Molki" (purchased women) in rest of the state (Jaat dominated) These terms signify their poor social status and the fact of their "having been purcheased". The men who use them represent the underbelly of Haryana, the self-styled 'macho' men for whom violence and alcohol go hand in hand with this heinous act.
As can be expected, civilized
society does not recognize such women or give them any of the rights or privileges normally accorded to a wife. living silently in the shadows, invisible to society, the paros and the Molkis are constantly sexually ravaged by their buyers.
what is disconcerting, if not shocking, is the responce of those in authority: to start with, the police, who do not recognize it as a major problem. The intelligentsia and social leadders in haryana blame touts for bringing these women here. The reason given for their being brought from another states is abysmal sex-ratio in Haryana. where the number of women even for regular matrimonial alliances fall far short of the demand.
These leaders are quick to blame the "socially backward" saying that it is they who are responsible for bringing in these women for their vile needs. However this theory is full of holes as it has clearly been the economically powerful sections, those with newly acquired wealth, who have in fact played a key role in intiating and establishing this practice.
There are women like Khairun from Hiranpur village of Pakud (Jharkhand) who was purched for 7000 in PAthri kalan of Jind (Haryana). she is regularly subjected to rape by her so-called husband and his younger brothers; a fact to which Rajkala Malik sarpanch of Pathri village turns a Nelson's eye, saying, "This is not new here" He adds that three years ago, agirl named salma had been bought for Rs 5000, after her "husband" Rajesh died, she was exploited by all and sundry in his village, there seems to be a conspiracy of silence among all those who stand to gain by trapping and exploiting these women. According to the sarpanch, the entire village ensures that such women do not escape or meet any strangers.
Earlier, the state had a tradition of karewa where one women had a sexual relationship with multiple men. with the intellectuals and the social reformers baying for blood to eliminate his practice, a new form of it emerged: a single woman is kept after being bought by her exploiter. The modification has been cleverly done, putting an end to the agitation of the progressive elements, who in their turn, have eased the pressure on those directly involved, perhaps they decided that in order to preserve the status quo, this was the easier path, or at any rate the one that was politically correct.
Some social organizations, like EMPOWER PEOPLE are working in the areas of kurukshetra, Jind and Mewat, and are dedicated to helping these women, but for a widely prevalent practice which seems to have the blessings of the powers that be, Thisi is a mere drop in the ocean. while caste and religion do not matter in these transactions, it is pertinent that many of these women are Muslim. Says Rukayya of Sindhana (Jind Haryana), who was brought from west Bengal "People tell us that Muslims sell their daughters; that's why you are here" She was brought here after being duped into believing that she would be marrying a Muslim, Heermajra village of sonepat district of Haryana, is a major centre for "sale-purchase" of girls from Assam and West Bengal. Most of the girls bought and sold here are Muslim.
Amidst all this, there is the odd story which shines like a ray of light in a cave that has been dark for years. Hameedan of Bukharka, who was also brought here and sold to ironsmith, found her saviour in man who married her. But such stories are straws in the wind, too few and scattered to really make a difference to those hundreds whose dignity and chasrity are being organizations too, which work in this difficult area, sometimes have cause to celebrate. A few days ago, a non govermental organization was successful in freeing a thirtee-year old girl from the clutches of flesh-traders in sonepat,
Perhaps such straws in the wind can be gathered together and strengthened with the help of all those who speak for women's rights, social justice and the rule of law. tackiling such issues does not only mmean making policies and laws, it also means being sesitive and motivated enough to make a difference to the lives of hundreds of women caught in the web of trafficking in Haryana.  (Shafiqur Rahman khan)

The Nightmare : Bride trafficking in India