Raped, then sold off as a bride in a distant land



Hundreds of girls and women have been sold-off by human traffickers as brides in Haryana villages since the past several years

In the tea gardens of Banarhat, a remote village bordering Bhutan in West Bengal, her father once worked as a labourer. After his death, the family survived for years on the meagre income of her mute brother, not enough to even pay for the proper treatment of her recurrent bouts of a mysterious stomach-aches. And then one day, yet another tragedy struck in the garb of a well-wisher. A human trafficker took Paro (name changed) to faraway Haryana, raped her and then sold her off as a bride to a middle-aged widower.

The family knew Mustafa Ali as the husband of the girl who once lived in their neighbourhood.

“We had taken Paro to the village doctors, but they could not cure her. This had us worried and in such a state of haplessness, Mustafa approached giving us a hope. He stayed with us for a night. Mustafa told us that not only Paro, but her mute brother could also be cured by the blessings of one Baba Rampal Maharaj, claiming that the godman had his ashram in Haryana,” said Paro’s elder sister. She had no inkling of Mustafa’s visit as she lives in another village with her husband.

Convinced that he was a God-sent saviour, Paro’s mother readily agreed to accompany Mustafa to Haryana along with the girl and her two sons. They boarded a train on July 3.

“We left for Delhi, from where we were taken to Kheri Man Singh village in Karnal. Mustafa took us to his house, where he lives with his two wives. We were shocked to discover that the villagers there knew him as Rajender Pal,” said a frail Paro, a 24-year-old woman who had virtually starved for the past few weeks.

Narrating her tale of horror, Paro recounted: “Rajender disclosed that he wanted to marry me off. When my mother and brothers objected, he and his men beat them up. He also attempted to sexually assault my mother. Following this, she and one of my brothers were forced to board a train back to our village. Rajender raped me and kept me in confinement for over 20 days. He would lock me inside a room whenever he went out.”

Paro refused to eat in protest and partly because she did not get her staple food — rice. While she languished at Rajender’s house, about four prospective grooms paid visits to check on her.

“The deal was finally struck with one Darshan Kumar for Rs.70,000. They staged a ceremony, where my brother was forced to pose for a photograph showing that the marriage had his approval,” said Paro. She was sent with Darshan, while her brother was sent packing home after his job was over.

“Darshan, a widower, sexually assaulted me and ill-treated me all the time. His mother also abused me. I was constantly looking for an opportunity to escape. Then and one day, in the early hours, I managed to slip out while the others were sleeping. I spent the entire day in the nearby sugarcane fields, but the villagers caught me the next morning and took me back to Darshan. They forced me to put my fingerprints on a blank paper,” said Paro.

Snapshot 2 (18-09-2013 19-59)A few days after Paro’s brother reached his village, the family learnt that Rajender had once again visited the village looking for some more girls. “We had got a case registered at the Banarhat police station on July 27. The police soon arrested him,” said Paro’s sister. The West Bengal Police then contacted non-government organisation Shakti Vahini seeking assistance for the victim’s rescue.

The NGO contacted the Karnal Superintendent of Police, on whose orders a team was sent to Darshan’s residence along with the organisation representatives on Monday, over two months after she was kidnapped. A video footage capturing the operation showed Paro screaming, bursting into tears and hugging her sister as soon as she sees her. Holding each other tightly, the sisters sobbed as Paro shared the agony and torture she had been subjected to.

Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini said: “Darshan was not home when the team reached there. The villagers confronted the NGO members, asserting that she had been bought for Rs.70,000. We finally managed to take the victim to the area police station, where she immediately went to the bathroom and sat under a tap till the sindoor was washed away completely.”

According to Mr. Kant, hundreds of girls and women like Paro are sold-off by human traffickers as brides in Haryana villages since the past several years.

“A skewed sex ratio [877 females per 1,000 males] in the State is the prime reason behind the mushrooming of such organised syndicates. As reported in the latest report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime [UNODC], a field study by Drishti Stree Adhyayan Prabodhan in 92 Haryana villages covering 10,000 households revealed that over 9,000 married women had been bought from other States. They address the purchased brides as Paro [from outside the State],” said Mr. Kant. Age, beauty and virginity are the yardsticks that determine their price.

Studies by various organisations have revealed that girls from poverty-stricken villages in Assam, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha and even from Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, are trafficked to Haryana and Punjab via Delhi for forced marriages.

“Trafficking for forced marriages has also been reported from Kutch in Gujarat. Hundreds of Bengali-speaking Muslim women are trafficked from West Bengal and Bangladesh to Kutch, where they are sold off as brides,” stated the UNODC report, observing that from Haryana, they are also sent to the bordering areas of Rajasthan.




Female foeticide is a major factor resulting in trafficking of women from across the country to Haryana for forced marriages and the situation has only been worsened by widespread unemployment and the low status accorded to women in the State, says the first-ever UN commissioned report on human trafficking in Haryana.

Most of the women brought to Haryana for forced marriages are from Assam and West Bengal and the districts of Karnal, Mewat, Rewari, Kurukshetra, Jind, Yamuna Nagar and Hisar in Haryana are the major destinations for these trafficked women, says the report titled ‘Current Status of Victim Service Providers and Criminal Justice Actors in India on Anti-Human Trafficking’, adding that the process of bridal migration was gaining momentum in the State and the sale and trafficking aspects of it needed immediate attention. In Mewat, there are many women who are being brought from States like Assam, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh and are forced to get married against their will. These girls are popularly known as “Paro”.

According to a 2004 report by non-government organisation Shakti Vahini, 100s of young girls and women are lured and sold into involuntary marriages in North India, says the report on human trafficking. They are bartered at prices that vary depending on their age, beauty and virginity and exploited under conditions that amount to a modern form of slavery. Although trafficking of women and girls has become a lucrative and expanding trade in these regions, it routinely escapes effective administrative and social sanctions and the general response is to deny the existence of any such problem.

A large number of women are also trafficked to Haryana from Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh for domestic work and are forced to work under bonded labour like conditions, according to the report. Gurgaon and Faridabad are the major destinations for the girls and women trafficked to Haryana for domestic work and a large number of them even become victims of sexual exploitation, says the report.The trafficked domestic helps, mostly minor girls, are supplied in Haryana by the placement agencies operating in Delhi and once these children land up in their employer’s house they end up in slavery. In many cases, these children become the victims of sexual exploitation at the hands of either the placement agency owner or the employer themselves. The placement agencies illegally run their business and have good links in the source areas. The agency owners bring girls from the source states with the help of their organised network and employ them as bonded labour.

Most of the victims are trafficked through railway routes and they are transited via Delhi. These women and girls are also sent to the border areas of Rajasthan from Haryana.

According to the report, the Haryana Government has initiated various schemes for the care and protection of trafficked victims and children. However, there is an absence of monitoring mechanism and minimum standards of victim care and protection and it was highlighted when the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights team detected cases of selling of infants and sexual exploitation of girls at a State-supported “Swadhar” Home in Rohtak recently.

Sounding the warning bells, the report says it may take Haryana more than 50 years to reach its natural sex ratio even if the Government ensures that not a single sex determination takes place in the State. The demand for marriageable age girls will be much more intense in the coming years and the demand met by inter-State marriages. The challenge before the State of Haryana as well as regions of Western Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan is to ensure that the bride demand is not catered to through human trafficking. The governments in these regions should ensure legislations which protect the rights of women and children, says the report.

Six arrested for pushing woman into flesh trade

Six arrested for pushing woman into flesh trade - SHAKTI VAHINI

Six arrested for pushing woman into flesh trade - SHAKTI VAHINI


Six persons, including a woman, were arrested in a joint operation of Delhi and Kolkata police for forcing a woman into prostitution by kidnapping her two sons. Police said the 24-year-old woman was brought to Delhi in November on the pretext of getting her a job. “The gang first tried to force her into prostitution. When she refused, they kidnapped her sons and sent her to Jaipur. On December 30, she managed to escape, took her elder son from Sangam Vihar and went to Kolkata,” said Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini NGO, which assisted the police in the rescue operation.

The woman informed the Kolkata police that her two-year-old son was still with the traffickers and a team reached Delhi on January 6.

“A raid was conducted at Sangam Vihar and Govindpuri and six persons, identified as Sameer, Sartaj Khan, Kafil, Shibu, Zeeshan and Rehana were arrested,” a senior police officer said. During interrogation, the kingpin — Sartaj Khan — told the police that the woman’s son was in Uttar Pradesh’s Gajraula district and a team was rushed there immediately.

“The child was soon rescued and handed over to his mother,” Rishi Kant said. The victim was a vegetable vendor in Kolkata and was brought to Delhi by Rehana. Police suspect the hand of a bigger gang in the matter. All the arrested persons have been taken to Kolkata for further investigation.


Brides purchased, then exploited in Haryana, Punjab


With skewed sex ratios it is impossible to find a local mate for each man

With skewed sex ratios it is difficult to find a local mate

Decades of unchecked sex-selective abortions have made the once fertile States of Punjab and Haryana suffer a drought of brides, making human-trafficking a lucrative and expanding trade. Often projected as a voluntary marriage, every year, thousands of young women and girls are lured into the idea of a happy married life with a rich man in Punjab or Haryana. Sadly most ‘purchased brides’ are exploited, denied basic rights, duplicated as maids, and eventually abandoned.

Only solution

With skewed sex ratios (Punjab-893, Haryana-877 females per 1,000 males) it is impossible to find a bride for each man, and ‘importing a bride’ has become the only solution. Also, with the tradition of not marrying within the same village and eligible girls marrying the wealthiest suitor, often NRIs, the majority of men in villages are left unmarried and often addicted to drugs.

“What is wrong in marrying a poor girl? I demanded no dowry, rather her family’s social and economic position has improved,” said an agitated Prakash Singh of Harsola village in Kaithal (Haryana), when asked why he married a 19-year-old girl hailing from a poor village from Assam. Interestingly, Mr. Singh has three brothers and no sister; he does not believe that there is any dearth of women in his village.

“There were no eligible girls in our village or social circle. After my son turned 35, we realised that unless we accept a non-Punjabi girl he would never be married and no one would carry the family name forward; so we had to make arrangements,” said Mahinder Singh, an elderly man in Pohlo Majra, Fatehgarh Sahib (Punjab). The migration might seem to be a measure to correct the gender imbalance, but the ultimate goal is producing sons.

“Marriage to an imported bride makes caste, language and culture immaterial as long as the price is paid to the girl’s family and a male child is born. Depending on the age, looks and virginity of a girl, grooms pay anywhere from Rs. 50,000 and Rs. 300,000,” said Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini, a non-governmental organisation working on the issue.

The obvious need gives the practice a social sanction and makes it look like a social service: Sushma Kaur of Pohlo Majra, who married a Sikh man 15 years elder to her, calls it a ‘blessing.’ “My uncle arranged the match, it was difficult in the beginning because of the new language and the culture, but my husband took care of me…My village in Bengal has an excess of females and no one to care for them, and it is a great service if I can arrange a matrimonial match. Ever since I got married, 10 years ago, over a dozen girls have followed me from Bengal,” she says with pride. She added that none of the girls were ill-treated; however, it was not unheard of.

A field study on the impact of sex ratio on the pattern of marriages in Haryana by Drishti Stree Adhyayan Prabodhan Kendra covering over 10,000 households, revealed that over 9,000 married women in Haryana were bought from other States. The study which covered 92 villages of Mahendragarh, Sirsa, Karnal, Sonepat, and Mewat districts said that most of the people accepted it as a common practice, but denied having bought a bride in their family.

“In every village there are over 50 girls that have been bought; some of them as young as 13 and a very small percentage of the ‘sold for marriage’ women are found to be living a married life. Most are untraceable or exploited or duplicated as domestic servants by the agents or men who marry/buy them. There are also instances of girls being resold to other persons after living a married life for a few years,” the study added.

Most of them come from poverty-ridden villages of Assam, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar and Orissa, because their families need money; and despite the prevalence of the dowry system in the north Indian states, men are ready to pay for a wife.

The pretext of marriage and the social sanction makes it difficult for police or NGOs to trace the trafficking or the atrocities, as women rarely speak of the domestic disturbances. According to Shakti Vahini, there are very few women who lead settled married lives, most go through unbearable torture and exploitation. “They are treated like commodities; they have no rights and no voice. We have rescued women who are raped and beaten and denied medical attention for years before they are dumped at a bus stand or railway station. They cannot defend themselves, they cannot even name the village they come from or the man who bought and later sold them. Women are not a supply-demand commodity; justifying trafficking by stating skewed sex ratio and poverty is only making things difficult for the women.”

  • Unchecked sex-selective abortions leading to dearth of brides
  • The need gives the practice a social sanction

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