In drought-hit Maharashtra, young ‘brides’ have good resale value #Vaw


By Ganesh N, IE

With drought in Maharashtra, ‘selling’ and ‘reselling’ of brides is likely to become an increasingly lucrative business for nefarious elements—the bride agents. It has been known that the agents scour Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu to look for prospective brides for men from gender-skewed regions of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, western regions of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab. Maharashtra’s Chandrapur district, which has been officially tagged as one of the most backward districts in the country, has become one of favoured hunting spots for these agents.

A recent case, in which five adolescent girls went missing from the district, saw the political mercury in the district soar and the police swing into action. It was a 700-kilometre trail that the police had to follow. With the five girls from the slum being sold as ‘brides’ to desperate unmarried men in Madhya Pradesh, a special team of the Maharashtra Police had to pursue the case in Ashok Nagar district in the neighbouring state. Led by Assistant Inspector Yogesh Pardhi, the Maharashtra Police team was determined to bring back the girls, aged between 16 and 20.

What Pardhi and his team learnt during the investigation was quite intriguing. The police had managed to arrest one of the agents who had sold one of the minor girls to a man from Shadora village in Ashok Nagar in Madhya Pradesh. Police team found out that the agents who sold off those women got Rs 30,000 to Rs 50,000 for every woman sold. However, one of the five girls from Chandrapur, who had been sold for Rs 30,000, had returned to her agent owing to the ill-treatment at the hands of her owner. The agent was too happy to resell her a second time and pocketed Rs 35,000. Pardhi had no answer as to why the girl did not return to her family when she had the opportunity, and instead approached her agent.

Though Pardhi had no answers, Shafiqur Rehman Khan of Campaign Against Bride Trafficking has them. “The ceremony solemnising such marriages are most appropriately called as Thag Vivah (cheat marriage). Rarely does the bride enjoy the social status of a wife. These women are either known as Paro brides, as in stolen, or Molki brides as in purchased,” said Khan. He explains Molki brides have to physically satisfy more than one person and also double as labourer on the fields.

The trading of brides also means that the few genuine bride seekers are finding it difficult to ‘stay’ married. When a 50-year-old businessman from Jaipur in Rajasthan had married a bride from Maharashtra, he thought it was coincidence that the two brides that he had earlier purchased from agents had run away. In two months the man has spent Rs 2.50 lakh on three brides. However, his third bride from Maharashtra too ran away. Subsequent police investigation revealed that agents and the brides were hand-in glove and were sold again. The agents are finding selling brides more lucrative than dealing in brothels. And more than the buyers, the agents are more keen to sell brides owing to demand in northern states. Khan fears that with drought in Maharashtra, agents would have a field day recruiting new brides as poor families are happy to have one less mouth to feed.

Though Khan believes that it is difficult to put a precise number on the quantum of bride trafficking, he estimates that there are about dozen such brides in every village of Haryana. As agents come up with offers of new brides, the time spent by the bride in particular household is also limited. “The old brides are sold to procure new ones. It is very similar to the cattle market. The market for brides as per our study is growing steadily at the rate 20 per cent every year,” said Khan.

 

#India -Bonded brides – Molki women on Sale #Vaw #Trafficking


ASHOK KUMAR, The Hindu

Marriage or shackles? Molki women lead a life of subjugation.
APMarriage or shackles? Molki women lead a life of subjugation.

Trafficked brides in Haryana are reduced to sex objects and cheap labour.

Import of women to Haryana as brides from far-off regions outside the State is by now a known trend, but a recent study on the social status and rights of these women, usually referred as paro or molki (meaning purchased), reveals how they cut from their people, native place and culture forever, end up as “sex toys” in bed and cheap labourers in the fields. They end up with no right to property or to interfere in family and social matters, even as the police, the media and society as large turns its back to the issue.

“Though the trend of bride trafficking is mostly associated with skewed sex ratio, there are several other factors such as need for cheap labour that contribute to it. An overwhelming majority of themolki women work in fields and just a fraction of them are managing households. Because of fast decreasing landholdings and increase in labour cost, the families in Haryana bring these women from other States in the garb of marriage and keep them as bonded farm labourers. The well-off zamindars usually don’t keep these women with themselves due to social constraints and marry them off to their local labourers. The women are then sexually abused both by their husband and his employer and also double up as cheap farm labourers,” said Shafiq R. Khan, founder of Empower People that carried out the study ‘Molki: Women on Sale…’

The trend of bride trafficking is also linked to age-old custom of karewa (sexual relations of more than one male with a single woman) that has been in existence in the region for ages, but was gradually on decline due to sanskritisation. The custom is now being revived through this practice and the molkiwomen are sexually exploited by all the males of the family. Social acceptance of karewa and its prevalence can be seen in folklore and local proverbs.

The study conducted in Haryana’s Jind and Kurukshetra districts, which are most notorious for female foeticide, reveals that 66 per cent of the families practising bride trafficking are Jats, followed by 15 per cent Sainis, though the custom is prevalent among almost all other castes. “Jats being the dominating caste, both economically and politically, play a significant role in setting social trends. On the other hand, Sainis are the only caste in Haryana to challenge Jats politically and economically and are leading the non-Jat politics in the State for several years now. So, when the molki woman was set as a standard of social dominance, the Sainis started challenging the Jats in this sphere, too,” explains Mr. Khan.

With local women having no right over land and little say in family and social matters in many areas of Haryana, the circumstances of the molki women are even worse. More than 80 per cent of the molkiwomen interviewed as part of the study revealed that they are not registered in local ration cards or voter lists, thus denying them the status and rights of a permanent family member. These women hardly participate in local customs and do not stand a chance of visiting their parents or native place ever after the “marriage”. Though most of these trafficked women, especially those belonging to West Bengal and Assam, have non-vegetarian food habits and take rice, they are forced to adjust to vegetarian food habits prevalent in Haryana, says Mr. Khan, adding that those in nuclear families enjoy relatively more independence within the family, but not in society at large.

The lives of the molki women, who have no right to property, become more pitiable after their ‘owner’s’ death and they are either sold or handed over to others as there is no social pressure on the family to take care of their basic needs. Some of these women adopt prostitution as a means of livelihood. They, however, stand a chance to stay with the family if they have children.

 

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