The marriage bazaar: How female foeticide has made bride trade a roaring business

DANISH RAZA IN THE HINDUSTAN TIMES

They talk about her in whispers. “Don’t tell her that I gave you directions to her house,” a local woman warns this reporter as she points out the two-storey house of Kamla, notorious in her neighbourhood, an upmarket residential colony in Haryana’s Jind district, for purchasing brides from distant states for the local bachelors in the region. Kamla is courteous but wary. She is plump and short. Dressed in a purple salwar-kameez and black overcoat, she asks her family members to leave the room while she talks to us. When she begins to speak, she gives us an unnerving stare. “Who told you that I arrange such marriages?”she inquires, rolling her eyes.

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The trade in brides is flourishing in north-west India. Skewed child sex ratios, and a decrease in the size of land holdings per family has meant that local men are hardly seen as good matches here. They are then forced to look for options, outside the state. Women such as Kamla network with brokers and agents in different states to cater to the demand for brides.

“The problem is so acute that those demanding reservation in government jobs for the predominant Jat community in Haryana tell their followers that without jobs, they will stay unmarried,”says Savita Bairwal, state joint secretary, All India Democratic Women’s Association. According to UNICEF, 80% of districts in India have recorded a declining sex ratio since 1991. ‘Despite these horrific numbers, foetal sex determination and sex selective abortions by unethical medical professionals has today grown into a Rs. 1,000 crore industry,’ notes the agency.

While campaigning for the latest assembly polls in Haryana, BJP leader OP Dhankar said at a rally in Jind that if voted to power, he would bring brides from Bihar for men in the state who are unable to find a suitable match. “Making the BJP strong also means that youths who are roaming without brides will get one,” he said.

Posing as a broker for families seeking wives for their sons, we met with four such traffickers in the Jind and Hisar districts of Haryana to understand the scale, the modus operandi and the money involved in the business of brides.

While some operate in the garb of registered marriage bureaus, most of them are discreet and run their business on word of mouth. They talk business strictly to people within their network.

Most of the deals are done over the phone along with regular visits to source areas in states such as Assam, Chhattisgarh, Tripura, Bihar, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Nepal. They charge around Rs. 50,000 to two lakh depending on the girl’s age and features. The money is divided among the middlemen between source and destination.

Depending on the risks involved, you can get a girl with all her documents in place or none at all and then decide if you would want to continue the marriage. Or sell her.

‘options are many’

Around 13 years ago, Balram, who goes by his first name, visited Tripura’s capital, Agartala, with one of his friends in Dabra village, Hisar. He got married there and since then, has made 50 odd trips to the north eastern state with his wife, Tanuja.

“I have brought 104 girls from Tripura in the past 12 years,” claims Balraj, adding, “Tell me whenever you want to visit. There will be 20-25 girls sitting in a room. You will have many options to choose from.”

Tanuja, a class eight-pass-out, now in her late 30s, handles their business and all its nitty-gritties, attending to customers in Haryana, exchanging phone numbers, maintaining a strong network with agents in the source region and arranging for their travel.

The couple’s estimate is that traffickers have brought around 5,000 girls from Tripura to Haryana and adjoining Punjab. “We are not the only ones doing it. Like my wife, there are numerous women who buy brides from their native states,” he says.

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The return journey to Tripura will take a week and we will have to bear all the expenses, says Tanuja. “The girls’ families are so poor that they will not be able to host you properly. You will have to bear the expenses of your stay there,” she tells us.

The couple also source girls from Tezpur, Assam. They show us a girl from Tezpur. She has been living with them for around 15 days. “Look at her and let us know if you have a prospective groom for her,” he says.

He does not discuss money with us; not even a rough estimate. For him to tell us rates, he says, we will first have to show him the men who we represent, to strike the deal.

‘there will be a proper marriage ceremony’

Doh number kee bahut hain…jitni chahe le le (There are many fakes here….take as many girls as you want),” says Ajay, a bride- trafficker in Jind’s Malsari Kheda village, referring to girls who run away within a couple of days of getting married. “If you want one actually for marriage, you will have to give me time,” says Ajay, who sources girls from Ghaziabad (Uttar Pradesh), Bihar and adjoining state of Jharkhand.

He is upset as one of his main suppliers of brides- a women broker in Panipat with contacts in Bihar’s Gaya district- has quit the trade. Yet, he tries his luck and makes a phone call to her and asks her to give it a second thought. She does not budge and hangs up on him.

His other source, an agent in Ghaziabad, has hiked his rates. The last time Ajay spoke with him, he says, he demanded Rs. 1.5 lakh. “What will I earn if I give him that much? Greed has screwed his brain,” fumes Ajay.

We are told that at least five bride- traffickers are active in this part of Haryana. Each of them source potential brides from different states so that there is no competition. Dharamveer deals in girls from Uttarakhand, Inder Singh procures them from Assam and Radhe Shyam has a solid network in Jharkhand.

“This is why you will find roughly 20 to 50 such girls from almost every neighboring village,” says a villager who did not want to be named.

Currently, Ajay’s only source in the region is a headmaster in a government school in the nearby village. “A Bihari girl will cost you Rs. 70,000. You will have to pay almost double the price for a girl from Himachal Pradesh,” says Ajay.

Despite making more than ten visits to Bihar, Ajay says, he would not want to deal directly with families who sell off their girls to fight poverty. “The day I try to bypass brokers, they will stop my access and ensure that I stop getting girls,” he says. Also, sourcing brides through agents is safer because the agents take care of all legal issues bound to arise in the source area. “That is the best part. There will be a proper marriage ceremony as per your religion,” he says.

‘my trade is bound to thrive’

Subhash, a 35 year-old wrestling enthusiast in Kaimri, a hamlet in Hisar, says it’s not about the money. He runs a flour mill and a grocery shop in the neighbourhood. The rear entrance of his mud house overlooks his farm-land. “I have everything by God’s grace,” he says. Around 12 years ago, he  was diagnosed with diabetes and has been grappling with weight loss since then. “I don’t travel a lot now,” he says. To add to his income, Subhash developed, what he calls a ‘side business’.

“How many girls do you want? I have ‘clean’, unmarried girls from Assam and Chhattisgarh. They are from poor families. You will have to pay them money. I will take my share too. This is how it works,” explains Subhash, who fits into one’s stereotype of a man from rural Haryana – tall, well-built and ear-ringed.

Assamese girls, he says, find it difficult to adjust in Haryana as they face language issues. As alternatives, he suggests girls from Rajasthan’s Alwar district, Lucknow and Ghaziabad.

Noticing that Subhash is opening up to us in the very first meeting, his wife interrupts saying he just facilitates marriages and does not trade in girls.

Subhash shuts her up and asks her to attend to household chores.

When we stress on fair complexion and ‘pretty’ features, he mentions Nepal. “We have the most beautiful kids. They are up for grabs,” he says. Regarding the costs involved, Subhash says it all depends on the situation when the deal is struck. “It all happens within minutes,” he says.

To keep the police at bay, traders have started getting such marriages registered in courts. It is not a pre-condition though. “You can take the girl’s thumb impression on a blank paper,” he says with a shrug.

Subhash says his trade is only going to flourish in the years to come as land holdings will keep multiplying and boys here find it extremely difficult to get married if they don’t have enough land. The only option before them is to get girls from outside. “The breed which we get from such alliances will not be good. But if start saying no to girls from outside, all our boys will remain bachelors. Therefore, we cannot help it,” says Subhash.

‘the returns have to be really good’

Kamla wants to take over the business from her boss, Pandey ji. A resident of Panipat district, he has been arranging girls for her for the past seven years. “If a deal is done in Rs. 1 lakh, he takes Rs. 70,000. Saara paisa wahi khaa leta hai (he takes the major chunk of the profit),” cusses Kamla.

Through him, she is in touch with brokers dealing in girls from Bilaspur (Chhattisgarh) and Himachal Pradesh. One has to travel to these states to get brides she says. “If you want to see the girls here in Haryana or Delhi, it will cost Rs. 10,000 extra. And if, on the way there is a police case, you will have to pay for that too.”

The morning we met her, Kamla had returned from her five-day visit to Himachal Pradesh.  But she says she operates through the phone and does not travel. She has another office in Faridabad, one of the satellite towns in the National Capital Region, adjoining Delhi.

She dials Pandey ji’s  number and insists we talk to him for clarity. “System samajh yaar (Understand the system, dear)” she says. He is busy and asks her to call later in the day. She wouldn’t mind the easy money and asks us for business ideas which she could explore. “Do not worry about the police and civic agencies. I have my people in all those offices. That’s not an issue. But the returns have to be really good,” she says.

We wind up soon as she is late for an appointment.

Before that, she asks us for the second time if we are really meeting her with the purpose of buying brides and wants to be sure that its not a trap. “Tum CID waaley toh nahi ho na? (you people are not from the CID, right?),” she says.

When convinced, she makes us an offer. “I have two girls from Chhattisgarh  here in Rohtak for the past one week. Let me know if you want to get it done in a day or two,” she says.

Kamla claims to know almost all major traffickers in Haryana and Punjab. She wants us to be cautious about them and is eager to know who all we met in Jind and elsewhere. She tips us off about a Hisar fixer who, she says, is a fraudster. “There are all kinds of people in this business. I am telling you as a well-wisher,” she says.

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THE PICTURE AND THE STORY HAS BEEN PUBLISHED IN THE HINDUSTAN TIMES DATED 28/12/2014.

CBI ESTABLISHES AN ANTI HUMAN TRAFFICKING UNIT; SETS UP EXCLUSIVE HELPLINE NUMBER AND ANNOUNCES REWARD TO COMBAT HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Central Bureau of Investigation

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CENTRAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
(INFORMATION SECTION)
5-B, CGO COMPLEX, LODHI ROAD,
NEW DELHI – 110003
PRESS RELEASE
NEW DELHI, DATED:-04.01.2012
 

CBI  ESTABLISHES AN ANTI HUMAN TRAFFICKING UNIT

SETS UP EXCLUSIVE HELPLINE NUMBER AND ANNOUNCES REWARD TO COMBAT HUMAN TRAFFICKING

The Central Bureau of Investigation has designated one Unit in Special Crime Zone of CBI in Delhi as Anti-Human Trafficking Unit. This unit will be responsible for collecting, collating & analyzing data on kidnapping and abduction of persons from all over India.  The unit will also develop actionable intelligence to conduct operations against gangs involved in trafficking, especially of children & women for the purpose of exploitation, such as beggary and prostitution.  This unit would also liaise with NGOs involved in this field.

A helpline number 011-24368638 has been established by CBI, on which any person having inputs about such gangs can give information.  It has also been decided that person giving information leading to arrest and criminal action against such gangs would be rewarded upto Rs.Two Lakh.  The Government of India has already designated all Police Officers of the rank of Inspector and above in CBI as “Trafficking Police Officers” to exercise powers of investigation under the “Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956” and other laws dealing with sexual exploitation of persons.

 —
Spokesperson, CBI
CBI ( HQ), 5-B, CGO Complex,
Lodhi Road, New Delhi-110 003
Tel/fax: 011-24361156
EPABX: 011-24360334, 24360422 & 24362828
Extns: 5121 & 4121
website: http://www.cbi.gov.in

Forced Marriages in Haryana

HUMAN TRAFFICKING NEWS IS A SHAKTI VAHINI NATIONAL LEGAL RESEARCH DESK INITIATIVE

The Government has taken a number of measures to improve the sex ratio. The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technique (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994 makes sex selective abortions a punishable offence. Further, the Ministry undertakes programmes for awareness generation as well as for socio-eco empowerment of women. Giving this information to the Rajya Sabha today, the Minister of Women & Child Development Smt. Krishna Tirath said that the Government of Haryana has also taken various steps to improve the gender balance. These include- implementation of the Ladli Scheme w.e.f. 20.8.2005 under which a sum of Rs.5000/- is given on the birth of second girl child for a period of 5 years; and giving cash prize to the best performing districts in terms of sex ratio.

The Minister also informed the House that in so far as trafficking is concerned, the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 supplemented by the Indian Penal Code (IPC) prohibits trafficking in human beings, including children and lays down penalties for trafficking. Advisories for combating trafficking have been issued on 09.09.2009 and 12.10.2011 by the Government of India to all States/Union Territories. Further, the Ministry has been implementing the “Ujjawala” Scheme, under which financial assistance is being provided for prevention of trafficking and for rescue, rehabilitation and re-integration of victims of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation

“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