3 Odia girls step in to stop child marriages in Bhubaneswar and how!

OdishaSunTimes

Representational Image 

Manushi Chillar, the 20-year-old medical student, may have created history as Miss World 2017, but not every girl in India gets to complete her primary school education, let alone represent the country on an international forum.

Many adolescent girls fall victims to social evils such as child labour, human trafficking, child marriage, illegal prostitution, etc. Many a time they do not get the opportunity to complete their education. The girls are often malnourished and do not understand physiological and emotional changes they undergo. Under these circumstances, parents of these girls often find ‘suitable’ grooms and marry them off.

However, there are change agents in Odisha, who have taken it upon themselves to rid the society of such evils.

One such individual is Diptymayee Pala (22) of Odisha capital. “I was in Class VIII when my parents wanted me to get married as they had received a ‘bhala prastaba’ (good proposal). My mother was ill and she wanted to see me get settled. I was unable to explain it to them that I did not want to be married. A local NGO came to my rescue and counselled my parents, after which they agreed to call off the wedding,” said Diptymayee, a graduate and resident of Niladri Vihar.

10 girls who are actively involved in prevention and spreading awareness on underage marriages, were a part of a special programme on Radio Choklate (Odisha’s no.1 private FM station), on the occasion of International Children’s Day

The incident motivated Diptimayee to take up the cudgels for other girls, who often find themselves in a helpless situation with parents eager to marry them off at an early age. She and a few other girls have been instrumental in preventing child marriages in their locality and saving girls from the fate of underage weddings.

“We conduct community meetings in the nearby slum areas with 30-35 girls and spread awareness regarding the vices of marrying at a tender age. We organise signature campaigns where individuals pledge to not tie the knot before turning 18. We also conduct skits to educate families who are illiterate and bogged down by societal stereotypes,” explained Pragyan Paramita Swain (22), who prohibited a 16-year-old’s wedding in the same locality.

Community meetings are conducted every weekend with slum residents of Niladri Vihar and nearby areas to sensitize them about underage marriage and its consequence

Madhusmita Sahoo (20), who is also a part of the same group as Diptymayee and Pragyan, cited the example of a relative who was forcibly getting his daughter married and did not listen to anybody as he thought the prospective groom was the best he could find for his 15-year-old. After exhausting all means of trying to convince him, Childline India was called. Finally, the wedding was cancelled.

“Here in slum areas, parents fear that a young girl will fall in love with someone and run away from home to get married. Before such shame befalls the family, they seek a groom and marry their daughters off amid pressure from relatives and society, even if these girls do not understand the meaning of marriage and the physical and emotional toll it would take on them,” explained Madhusmita.

Government claimed that there are 23 million child brides in the country, as per a report in thewire.in
Picture courtesy: REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee

The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (2006) prevents and prohibits child marriage in India. An UN report of 2005 estimates child marriage rate of India at 30%. January 24 of every year has been declared as National Girl Child Day and the government of India conducts programmes to sensitize people about the ill-effects of child marriage.

 

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Woman running orphanage arrested for trying to sell one-month-old boy in TN

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Police arrested a woman running an orphanagein Ramanathapuram in Tamil Nadu for allegedly trying to sell a one-month-old boy.

Police said the baby was born to a woman out of wedlock. As she did not want to raise the baby, the woman handed it over to the orphanage, run by Banumathi.

Banumathi was arrested after she was seen in a video trying to strike a deal with a man to sell the baby. In the video, which was shared widely on social media, she was seen demanding Rs 4 lakh from the man for the boy.

Banumathi has been running an orphanage in Aranmanai area of Ramanathapuram for several years. Elderly people and people with learning difficulties are being taken care of in the orphanage.
As people started sharing the video, Ramanthapuram district child protection unit, anti-human trafficking wing and Childline intervened and conducted investigations.
The Bazaar police registered a case based on a complaint filed by the district child protection unit and arrested her. The boy was rescued and shifted to a home.
Further investigations were to find out whether any such sale had taken place in the past.

Lid blown off trafficking racket after serial weddings

North 24 parganas district

North 24 parganas district (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

FROM THE ARCHIVES – PUBLISHED IN TIMES OF INDIA   MARCH 26,2010

KOLKATA: For years, Tarapada Biswas’s house at Basirhat’s Charghat, in North 24-Parganas, had been the talk of the town. Hardly a day passed without a wedding ceremony being held there. On Wednesday, however, the secret

behind the “much-married” house came out. The wedding ceremonies were no more than a cover for an elaborate woman-trafficking racket.

The weddings at Biswas’s home had one thing in common. The grooms were mostly from UP and Haryana. Most brides, however, were from Bangladesh infiltrators, as it turned out. It was a complaint from one such woman on Wednesday that unearthed the racket.

The woman alleged in her complaint with Swarupnagar police that she feared of being trafficked to Haryana. Police raided Tarapada’s house, arrested Mukesh Chomar (22), the sham groom from Haryana. On interrogating him, it was found that a flesh trade supply racket had been in operation from the house for four years. Ironically, the woman whose complaint unearthed the racket herself landed in police custody, charged with illegally crossing the border. Prime accused Tarapada and his wife, though, were not found and police have launched a hunt for them.

The racket came to light after the girl from Bangladesh refused to marry a groom from Haryana, saying she had no plans of marrying outside Bengal.

During their investigations, police learnt that Biswas had strong links with an Uttar Pradesh-based gang. Girls aged between 18 and 25 were brought either from Bangladesh or from rural hamlets of Basirhat and Bongaon to tie the knot with sham grooms from north India.

Biswas charged anything between Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 for each wedding, in which he would act as marriage registrar and organise a ceremony complete with rituals, followed by dinner for guests. Though the frequent weddings did raise neighbours’ eyebrows, they preferred to leave him alone, especially as he didn’t socialise much.

Some neighbours had even gone to police with complaints, but there was no written complaint till Wednesday, said the cops. Some of the brides’ families, too, had occasionally complained that they were unable to trace their daughters after the marriage, but again, none was a written complaint.

“Biswas had even refused to speak to the fathers of several girls who had such complaints,” said an officer of Swarupnagar police station.

FROM THE ARCHIVES – PUBLISHED IN TIMES OF INDIA   MARCH 26,2010

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“Wife-sharing” haunts Indian villages as girls decline

NITA BHALLA IN THE REUTERS

BAGHPAT, India (TrustLaw) – When Munni arrived in this fertile, sugarcane-growing region of north India as a young bride years ago, little did she imagine she would be forced into having sex and bearing children with her husband’s two brothers who had failed to find wives.

“My husband and his parents said I had to share myself with his brothers,” said the woman in her mid-40s, dressed in a yellow sari, sitting in a village community center in Baghpat district in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

“They took me whenever they wanted — day or night. When I resisted, they beat me with anything at hand,” said Munni, who had managed to leave her home after three months only on the pretext of visiting a doctor.

“Sometimes they threw me out and made me sleep outside or they poured kerosene over me and burned me.”

Such cases are rarely reported to police because women in these communities are seldom allowed outside the home unaccompanied, and the crimes carry deep stigma for the victims. So there may be many more women like Munni in the mud-hut villages of the area. Munni, who has three sons from her husband and his brothers, has not filed a police complaint either.

Social workers say decades of aborting female babies in a deeply patriarchal culture has led to a decline in the population of women in some parts of India, like Baghpat, and in turn has resulted in rising incidents of rape, human trafficking and the emergence of “wife-sharing” amongst brothers.

Aid workers say the practice of female feticide has flourished among several communities across the country because of a traditional preference for sons, who are seen as old-age security.”We are already seeing the terrible impacts of falling numbers of females in some communities,” says Bhagyashri Dengle, executive director of children’s charity Plan India.”We have to take this as a warning sign and we have to do something about it or we’ll have a situation where women will constantly be at risk of kidnap, rape and much, much worse.”

SECRET PRACTICES

Just two hours drive from New Delhi, with its gleaming office towers and swanky malls, where girls clad in jeans ride motor bikes and women occupy senior positions in multi-nationals, the mud-and-brick villages of Baghpat appear a world apart. Here, women veil themselves in the presence of men, are confined to the compounds of their houses as child bearers and home makers, and are forbidden from venturing out unaccompanied.

Village men farm the lush sugarcane plantations or sit idle on charpoys, or traditional rope beds, under the shade of trees in white cotton tunics, drinking tea, some smoking hookah pipes while lamenting the lack of brides for their sons and brothers. The figures are telling. According to India’s 2011 census, there are only 858 women to every 1,000 men in Baghpat district, compared to the national sex ratio of 940. Child sex ratios in Baghpat are even more skewed and on the decline with 837 girls in 2011 compared to 850 in 2001 — a trend mirrored across districts in northern Indian states such as Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan and Gujarat in the west.

“In every village, there are at least five or six bachelors who can’t find a wife. In some, there are up to three or four unmarried men in one family. It’s a serious problem,” says Shri Chand, 75, a retired police constable. “Everything is hush, hush. No one openly admits it, but we all know what is going on. Some families buy brides from other parts of the country, while others have one daughter-in-law living with many unwedded brothers.”

Women from other regions such as the states of Jharkhand and West Bengal speak of how their poor families were paid sums of as little as 15,000 rupees ($300) by middle-men and brought here to wed into a different culture, language and way of life.

“It was hard at first, there was so much to learn and I didn’t understand anything. I thought I was here to play,” said Sabita Singh, 25, who was brought from a village in West Bengal at the age of 14 to marry her husband, 19 years her elder.

“I’ve got used to it,” she says holding her third child in her lap. “I miss my freedom.” Such exploitation of women is illegal in India, but many of these crimes are gradually becoming acceptable among such close-knit communities because the victims are afraid to speak out and neighbors unwilling to interfere.

Some villagers say the practice of brothers sharing a wife has benefits, such as the avoidance of division of family land and other assets amongst heirs. Others add the shortage of women has, in fact, freed some poor families with daughters from demands for substantial dowries by grooms’ families. Social activists say nothing positive can be derived from the increased exploitation of women, recounting cases in the area of young school girls being raped or abducted and auctioned off in public.

UNABATED ABORTIONS

Despite laws making pre-natal gender tests illegal, India’s 2011 census indicated that efforts to curb female feticide have been futile. While India’s overall female-to-male ratio marginally improved since the last census in 2001, fewer girls were born than boys and the number of girls under six years old plummeted for the fifth decade running. A May study in the British medical journal Lancet found that up to 12 million Indian girls were aborted over the last three decades — resulting in a skewed child sex ratio of 914 girls to every 1,000 boys in 2011 compared with 962 in 1981.

Sons, in traditionally male-dominated regions, are viewed as assets — breadwinners who will take care of the family, continue the family name, and perform the last rites of the parents, an important ritual in many faiths. Daughters are seen as a liability, for whom families have to pay substantial wedding dowries. Protecting their chastity is a major concern as instances of pre-marital sex are seen to bring shame and dishonor on families.

Women’s rights activists say breaking down these deep-rooted, age-old beliefs is a major challenge. “The real solution is to empower girls and women in every way possible,” says Neelam Singh, head of Vatsalya, an Indian NGO working on children’s and women’s issues.

“We need to provide them with access to education, healthcare and opportunities which will help them make decisions for themselves and stand up to those who seek to abuse or exploit them.”

(TrustLaw is a global news service on women’s rights and good governance run by Thomson Reuters Foundation. For more information see http://www.trust.org/trustlaw)

(Editing by Sugita Katyal)

http://in.reuters.com/article/2011/10/27/us-india-women-exploitation-idINTRE79Q1WX20111027

Flesh trade racket busted, four arrested

NATIONAL LEGAL RESEARCH DESK – A SHAKTI VAHINI RESEARCH INITIATIVE

HINDUSTAN TIMES

With the arrest of four persons, including two girls, the city police claimed to have busted a sex racket. The accused used to operate under the garb of an online escort service agency from the Sector 50 area here. The arrests were made on Friday evening after a Delhi-based girl, who works with a BPO company, lodged a complaint that her profile was posted on the escort service website.

The police said the victim, Neha (name changed), registered a complaint, saying that her profile on social networking websiteFacebook’ was hacked and posted on the escort website, which makes call girls available to customers. Then, the police constituted a team with the cyber crime cell.

A trap was laid. A decoy customer dialled the number posted on the website to strike a deal with the accused. The accused reached Sector 50 and was caught red-handed.

Apart from the call girls —Geeta, 22, and Sheela, 20, (names changed), two pimps — Kumar and Amar Singh have been arrested. The car, in which the four had come, has also been impounded.

The accused revealed that one Ramu was the kingpin of the gang and it was his cell phone number that has been posted on the website.  Ramu is yet to be arrested.

The police said that the gang hired girls mostly from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. They suspect that the girls were sent to residents in Delhi and NCR areas.

“The racket includes foreigners, too, who came to the country as tourists or for jobs,” said a senior police official. A case under the IT Act and human trafficking has been registered against the accused. They were produced before a court on Saturday and have been sent to judicial custody, said a police

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Flesh-trade-racket-busted-four-arrested/Article1-738710.aspx

Where have all the girls gone?

UNFPA Sends Mobile Units to Help Women, Childr...

Image by United Nations Photo via Flickr

Namita Kohli, Hindustan Times
Email Author
Haryana/New Delhi, November 10, 2007

Faced with a crisis, even local elections have candidates promising brides in return for votes.

“My kismet brought me here,” says 14-year-old Heena, who’s come to ‘sasural’ in Malabnuhu — a sleepy village in Haryana’s Mewat region — from Kolkata. Originally from Bangladesh, the teenager can only blame destiny now. Last year, after a sum of Rs 6,000 changed hands, the ‘bahu’ found herself in an alien landscape: where Bengali is replaced by Haryanvi, rice by roti — and where cattle costs more than women like her, who are referred to as paros by the locals.

In the prosperous districts of Haryana and Punjab — where son preference has resulted in a skewed sex ratio — girls from economically weaker backgrounds in Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal are being openly bought in droves for ‘marriages’ that are more often than not without the consent of the girl. The legal status of such wedlock, of course, remains questionable. According to data compiled by Shaktivahini, a Faridabad-based NGO that takes up anti-trafficking issues, there are up to 50,000 paros in Haryana alone, including a huge proportion of minors.

Census 2001 shows that the child sex ratio in Haryana and Punjab stands at 820 and 793 per 1,000 boys respectively. But according to the latest health survey by the Punjab government, villages like Sansarwal in Patiala have touched an alarming 438 girls per 1,000 boys.

Ergo, girls are fast turning into a vanishing tribe. A recent United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report warns that female deficit in the marriageable age (20-49) is set to touch 25 million by the year 2030.

The impact, however, is already being felt here. Says Dr Madhav Mohan Godbole, the director of Balgrah, a rehabilitation centre in Rai, Sonepat, “Villagers come to us and plead for brides. They say if we can’t fix them up, they will be forced to buy girls.” Faced with a crisis, even local elections have candidates promising brides in return for votes. Ram Prasad of Seoti village in Sonepat, concedes, “frequent trips are being made from all over Haryana to hunt for girls in Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand and even Maharashtra.”

In a typical ‘buying’ scenario, someone with ‘contacts’ in source states facilitates such arrangements in return for kharcha-paani, explains Rishikant of Shativahini. The ‘going rate’ ranges from Rs 6,000 –10,000, depending on the age and virginity. Forced by poverty, many a time the paros also have to ‘accept’ polyandry.

Interestingly, parents of local girls are now spoilt for choice. No one wants a poor or unemployed groom, says Akbar Ahmed of Malabnuhu. Neither are they willing to send their girls to the land of paros.

Post-Marital Blues

Gradually, the cultural impact of these forced marriages is surfacing. Meena, 30, a paro from West Bengal bemoans, “Men here don’t know how to behave. Their language, attitude are very brash.” The women’s movements are kept under ‘close watch’ and they aren’t allowed to visit home for fear that they might escape. “But at least there’s food to eat here, else why would we come so far,” sighs Mamta, a ‘bride’ from Bihar.

Even so, there are ample stories of abuse. Ameena, 13, was sold to a 35-year-old widower Ashok in Seoti, who was desperate for a bride. It didn’t matter even if she was a minor. “Ashok would lock me up in a room, beat me up and sexually abuse me. He wouldn’t let me talk to my mother,” recalls Ameena, who tried to escape a couple of times, before being rescued by Delhi-based NGO Prayas just last month. “He was so much older, and there was a lot of communication problem. So I was just supposed to say yes to whatever he demanded.”

Ameena’s was the first case of trafficking registered in Haryana, as women seldom register complaints due to social pressures. “There’s no complainant, no accused,” laments Sibhash Kaviraj, SP of Mewat. A local police official in Seoti says, “How can we go about breaking homes? Unless villagers inform us of such incidents, our hands are tied… it is their personal matter.” While many like Chandigarh-based Professor Pam Rajput, vice president National Alliance for Women (NAWO), have been advocating frequent compiling of relevant statistics and sensitising both men and women, the administration has clearly, been slow to deal with the issue.

Meanwhile, the chain continues to grow. As the UNFPA report states, it is the poor and landless men who will be most affected by this bridal crisis. Evidently then, 35-year-old Anwari who was, many years ago, married to a man 20 years older than her in Malabnuhu, is worried for her four boys. “They don’t study. Maybe, I will have to buy brides for them also.” Already, across Haryana and Punjab, it’s a common refrain, “Who wants to give girls to poor men like us?” To which, one Ram Dulari of Seoti chides them: “Who will, when you foolish people kill your own girls?”

(Some names have been changed)

Sex selection in India

A 3D ultrasound taken of a fetus at 20 weeks.

Image via Wikipedia

ANIRUDH G.R.THE HINDU NOVEMBER 11, 2007

In ‘IT revolution and declining dowry practice’ (Open Page, October 28), Chandra Kommera has drawn an interesting analogy between the two. While it is extremely heartening to note this change in the bargaining power of women, such instances are still few and far between. For many, the birth of a girl child is still unwelcome. The sex ratio of India according to the 2001 census is a dismal 933 females per 1,000 males, up from 927 in 1991. These figures leave muc h to be desired.

A major concern is that economic and educational prosperity has not altered this long-held bias against the girl child. It is still a widely held theory that a male child will carry forward the family line. Another factor going against the girl child is the dowry which her family has to churn out at the time of her marriage.

In many areas, among the prosperous, dowry is viewed as a status symbol. Business families also feel the need for having a male heir. And with the trend of smaller families slowly creeping in, the girl child gets chucked out.

Armed with knowledge and money, access to methods of sex selection including female foeticide is easy. For instance, in relatively prosperous Punjab, the sex ratio is 874 whereas in so-called backward Bihar, it is 921 according to the 2001 census.

The mushrooming of illegal ultrasound clinics all over the country is testimony to the rampant sex-selective abortions.

And increasingly, for fear of being caught, these clinics seem to use symbolism to convey the results. They use blue or pink colour to convey whether the foetus is a boy or a girl. Or they make statements such as ‘Your child resembles a doll’ to convey a female foetus.
Hardly a deterrent

The Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act of 1994 banned sex determination tests. It provides for three years imprisonment for a first-time offender and a fine of Rs 10,000. This is hardly a deterrent given the huge profits the trade offers and the lax judiciary.

The rate of conviction under this law is one of the worst with the first conviction coming as late as 2006. This could be attributed to the difficulty in producing evidence in court and a powerful lobby which has virtually converted sex selection into a profitable trade. Of late, sting operations by women disguised as pregnant women have helped nail a few doctors.

This trend of sex selection is extremely unhealthy and can have disastrous consequences for society. Moreover, a society which denies the girl child even the basic right to existence cannot claim to be civilised. It is time the loopholes in the law were corrected. Strict implementation of the law can be the only deterrent to the practice, given that attitudes take time to change.