Trafficking for Forced Marriage – Bride Says Marriage Was Arranged in Hell

By DAN MCCUEIN COURT HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

(CN) – A young woman sued her in-laws-by-arranged-marriage, claiming they brought her to the United States from India in a blatant act of human trafficking, then consigned her to “modern-day slavery.”  Diptiben Mistry was a college student studying hotel and tourism management when she and her family met defendants Chandrakant and Nilam Udwadia in Navsai, Gujarat, India in January 2007. After meeting for just 30 minutes, she says, her father agreed that she would marry the Udwadias’ son, Himansu. The only provision was that she be allowed to complete her remaining year in college and earn her bachelor’s degree. The Udwadias agreed and the wedding took place a week later.
But things quickly went downhill, Mistry says.

Defendants fraudulently induced Mistry to marry their son, Himansu Udwadia, misrepresenting the terms of marriage,” the complaint states. “Defendants then transported Mistry from India to their home in the United States. Using psychological coercion, physical violence, and threats of divorce and return to India as a stigmatized woman, Defendants forced Mistry to provide daily domestic labor for them, in violation of international, federal, and state laws.

“During the period that Mistry was forced to work for defendants, defendants never paid Mistry. Defendants held Mistry as a virtual prisoner in their residence, restricting her access to food, depriving her of medical care, subjecting her to verbal, psychological, and physical abuse, and keeping her under constant surveillance. Defendants controlled every aspect of Mistry’s life, including when she ate, slept, and showered, stripping her of any means of independence, subjecting her to almost constant surveillance, and dictating the minutiae of her daily life.

“Indian culture dictates that young women respect and obey their elder relatives. Upon marriage, a woman is expected to obey her husband and his family members. Divorce is considered extremely shameful in Indian society, particularly for women, and a divorced woman, as well as her entire family, may be considered permanently stigmatized in the eyes of their community. Defendants effectively leveraged these cultural practices to coerce Mistry into providing domestic labor.

“Defendants knowingly and willfully rendered Mistry isolated, helpless, and utterly dependent upon them in order to constructively imprison her. Defendants forced her to work long hours on little sleep and with little to no human contact outside of themselves. They prohibited Mistry from speaking privately with her own family in India. They deprived her of any money or knowledge of how to arrange for transportation. Defendants controlled every aspect of her life, down to the smallest detail, creating an atmosphere of complete control and effectively ensuring that Mistry could not escape. Defendants, through their acts and omissions, actively contributed to and promoted Mistry’s helplessness in order to maintain complete control over her and in doing so, created a coercive environment far more effective than mere locked doors or physical threats.

By fraudulently luring Mistry to the United States under the guise of marriage to their son and subjecting Mistry to forced labor, defendants committed human trafficking. Mistry seeks damages and restitution for unpaid wages, damages for trafficking her into the United States under false pretenses, and damages for breach of contract.” The ordeal began right after the wedding, which was on Feb. 3, 2007, Mistry says, when her new in-laws canceled her cell phone subscription: “one of their first acts of limiting Mistry’s ability to communicate with her family.”
Newlywed Indian couples often travel to visit relatives after their honeymoon, and usually travel unaccompanied. “However, following the week-long honeymoon, defendants insisted that they travel with Himansu and Dipti to visit relatives in India,” she says.

 “After the wedding, the honeymoon, and the travel around India to visit relatives, Mistry’s exams at school were starting, but Chandrakant would not permit her to return to school. Instead, Chandrakant told Mistry that she needed to return to the United States with them immediately and would not be permitted to finished her education in India, as contracted for in her marriage agreement,” according to the complaint.

Then, Mistry says, she came to find out that her in-laws had begun the visa process through the U.S. Embassy in India long before she had ever met the Udwadia family, and that her visa had been obtained fraudulently.”Defendants were looking for any ‘bride’ that could fulfill a domestic servant role in their household,” she says.

The day after they arrived in the United States, she says, Chandrakant took all of her belongings away, confiscated her passport and jewelry and put them in a safe deposit box at his bank. She says they insisted that she and her husband never sleep alone, but share their bed with a younger son, Prasad. “During Mistry’s time living with defendants in Oklahoma, defendants subjected Mistry to forced labor by requiring her to perform all domestic work while closely monitored by Chandrakant,” Mistry says. “Chandrakant did not allow Mistry to take breaks from her daily household chores except to study for her bookkeeping course and a bank teller certificate, which he forced her to obtain so that she could help him with his accounting business.

“If at any point Mistry chose not to follow Chandrakant’s orders, she would be subjected to verbal and physical abuse, such as slapping, yelling insults, or throwing items at Mistry.
“Mistry was responsible for all domestic work in the defendants’ home. She was expected to work from approximately 5 am to 11 pm each day. “Mistry worked for defendants in their Oklahoma home seven days a week, eighteen hours a day, for eight months, accruing approximately 4,320 total hours from April 3, 2007 to October 19, 2007.”

Throughout this time, she says, “Chandrakant supervised Mistry closely and told her exactly what chores to do, what to cook, and which pots, pans and utensils to use. Chandrakant constantly critiqued Mistry’s work, telling her she was stupid and did not know how to do things correctly. Chandrakant once hit Mistry on the head during prayers because she made a mistake. …      “Nilam [her mother-in-law] would report to Chandrakant what Mistry did throughout the day. She would report even the smallest detail, including when Mistry had a snack.”

 When her husband moved to Georgia in May 2007, she says, he wanted to take her with him, but “Chandrakant would not permit it. From May 17, 2007 to October 19, 2007, defendants kept Mistry and Himansu apart” In addition to forced labor, she says, her in-laws subjected her to “deprivation of food, deprivation of medical care and sexual assault.” The complaint states: “One night, Chandrakant came into Mistry’s room around 1 am, locking the door behind him. Chandrakant began touching her. Mistry got up from the bed, and Chandrakant chased her around the room. Mistry became frightened and screamed, so Chandrakant told Mistry to go outside, leaving her standing in the cold for fifteen to twenty minutes. When Chandrakant allowed Mistry back inside, he told her not to tell anyone what had transpired in the bedroom. Otherwise, Chandrakant told her, he would send Mistry back to India.”

Finally, she says, her in-laws demanded that their son divorce her and send her back to India. When he refused, she says, they tricked the couple by saying Mistry should go back to India to finish her studies. While she was there, the Udwadias went ahead with their plans to have their son divorce her. Although she returned to the United States to speak with Himansu directly, he refused to speak with her. Since the divorce became final, she says, she has been unable to retrieve her marital property or the items Chandrakant confiscated from her when she first arrived in the United States.

She seeks compensatory, punitive and statutory damages for forced labor, human trafficking for the purpose of forced labor, violations of the Oklahoma Human Trafficking Act, involuntary servitude and forced labor in violation of the Laws of Nations Alien Tort Statute. She is represented in Oklahoma City Federal Court by Amy Sherry Fischer, of Foliart, Huff, Ottaway & Bottom in Oklahoma City.

http://www.courthousenews.com/2012/01/13/43033.htm

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Job agent held for running sex racket, misusing photos of women applicants

MID DAY
The Social Security (SS) Cell has arrested a placement agent for running a sex racket. The investigation revealed that the agent was misusing photographs of good-looking women job applicants by showing them to his patrons. Dayanand Hangave (36), a resident of Thergaon, was arrested on Monday evening by officials of the SS Cell after a tip-off.
The police suspect Hangave was acting as a middleman between call girls and their clients. The team led by Police Inspector Bhanupratap Barge laid a trap in Landewadi near Bhosari.
“Hangave was in possession of several genuine bio-datas from women since he worked as a placement agent. We suspect that he identified certain photographs to show his clients. But we suspect that the misuse was only limited to showing these photographs, for which we are investigating the extent of this malpractice,” Barge said. Barge added that Hangave was involved in a prostitution racket and used to send other women to his clients.

Army jawan among 8 arrested in sex racket

Lucknow: An army jawan was among eight people arrested for allegedly running a sex racket in Uttar Pradesh‘s Fatehgarh district, police said here on Monday . Acting  on a tip-off, police arrested the eight persons, including the army man and three women, from Ghatiaghat area yesterday for running the sex racket.

PTI

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/Army-jawan-arrested-in-sex-racket/articleshow/10819572.cms

28 women rescued from Grant Road brothel sent back home

Women who were recently rescued from the Social Service Branch of the Mumbai police from a brothel, were sent back to their native place in West Bengal on Thursday, by the police. The 28, who were sent back, were among the 115 women rescued after the police busted a prostitution racketoperating in Krishna Building at Grant Road on November 2. Assistant commissioner of police (ACP) Vasant Dhoble of the SSB told HT that a bogie had been reserved for them in the Howrah Mail. They were accompanied by 25 women constables and five officers from the DB Marg police station, which is handling the case.

The women had expressed  their desire to go back to their villages. All of them had been taken to shelter homes following the raid. “We verified the numbers and addresses of their relatives. When the relatives assured us that they would take them back, we began the process of sending them home,” said Dhoble.

The police team accompanying the women will once again verify the identity of their relatives, as well as their relationship with the girls, after which they will be handed over.

He said that efforts were on to trace relatives of the other victims. “If they show willingness to go back, we will make necessary arrangements. We are also looking at giving them vocational training and preparing them for alternate professions,” he said.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/Mumbai/28-women-rescued-from-Grant-Road-brothel-sent-back-home/Article1-767582.aspx

“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

Hundreds Go Missing in India’s North East

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

STELLA PAUL IN THE GROUND REPORT

For records, law and order situation has improved a lot in India‘s North East region of late. There are fewer killings, fewer attacks and fewer people wounded. Now, just when you are all tempted to say ‘how wonderful!’, comes the news: there are people vanishing, in thousands, every year, all over the region.

Topping the list is Manipur where over 300 people disappear every year. Every morning, as you open a newspaper, you will come across 7-10 faces of the “missing persons”, listed on the last page of the newspaper.
Some will be found eventually; their bodies, often decomposed beyond recognition, are retrieved from remote and isolated locations. Visit the morgue of state capital Imphal and you can see uncovered bodies, lying on the ground, unattended. You can tell that they are victims of extrajudicial killings. Majority of these bodies will never be identified nor claimed by families. They will be hastily examined, and then disposed off by the municipality. They will not be given any names, their stories will not be written, and miniscule records of their passage in the morgue will be kept. In an ultimate denial of their humanity, no religious rituals will be performed.
But, what about those who are not dead? Where do they end up, if not in the morgue?
The answer isn’t difficult to guess: trafficked, to other parts of the country. Yes, human trafficking is growing at an alarming rate all across India and North east is emerging as the greatest source of this trafficked human goods, mostly women and children.
Official data is hardly ever there, but there are indicators to validate such comments. A look at Assam Police’s annual list of missing persons shows up hundreds of images and two third of them belong to young women, between 18-35 of age. And this is just the list of 1 year (2009). How many women have since then gone missing? You can only guess.
 Nagaland is no better.  In Nagaland, one person goes missing every 3 ½ days. According to a study conducted by a local NGO called Prodigal Home, 68% of them are children, 35% of whom will never be found again.
There is another scary fact about Nagaland: the state has become the main transit point for human trafficking and this is officially validated fact, provided by state police. According to a senior police officer SP Tuensang Roopa, girls from border areas are brought to Nagaland through ‘agents,’ trafficked to other parts of the country. There, they are forced into prostitution. Some are employed as domestic help in individual households.(There are 3 lakh brothels in India today with 2.5 million prostitutes in about 1100 red light areas, who are also mostly trafficked and forced into prostitution.)
The biggest hurdle in curbing or even tracking this trafficking menace is that half the times missing cases are not registered. Data collection, therefore, is a mission nearly impossible for those wanting to research the issue. Sometimes, one gets suspected and threatened, simply for asking ‘too many questions.’  Community members, including the relatives of the missing persons too go into a shell the moment they see you taking notes.
Is implementation of laws such as Child Labor (Prevention and Regulation) Act, alone the answer to this menace? Or, is this a larger issue of poverty elimination and creation of livelihood opportunities? It’s time to start asking those questions, aloud.

http://www.groundreport.com/World/Hundreds-Go-Missing-in-Indias-North-East/2941657

SHAKTI VAHINI PRESIDENT SPEAKS AT THE PRESS CLUB OF INDIA ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING