MP girl sold for Rs 90,000, found


THE TRIBUNE / Jind, October 24

The police has recovered a 22-year-old girl hailing from Madhya Pradesh from the local railway station. According to police sources, the girl, identified as Maya, a resident of Betul district of Madhya Pradesh, was found to be loitering at the local railway junction on Saturday night under suspicious circumstances.

She told the police that her uncle sold her for marriage to a youth a few days ago against a payment of Rs 90,000. She said she became a widow after her husband died three months ago. The investigations revealed that the girl was married to a truck driver, Ved Prakash, a resident of Dhangar village, on October 20, but she fled from his house on October 22 and reached Jind. She told the police that as she was married against her wishes, she fled and wanted to return to her house in her native village.

While no complaint has been lodged by anyone in this connection, the girl was produced before the duty magistrate, who sent her to the Nari Niketan at Karnal till she was sent back home.This is the second such incident in which a woman, hailing from outside the state, has been recovered after being sold for marriage in the region.


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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Washing Hands Off If Centre can’t stop honour killings, who will?



Passing the buck is a favourite hobby of sarkari babus but one wishes they do not indulge in such a pastime when an issue as vital as honour killings is under consideration. The Centre has smugly told the Supreme Court in its affidavit that police and public order are state subjects under the Constitution and it is the state’s responsibility to deal with the offences in question. That is a fact known even to school students. Can the Centre evade responsibility by taking this plea is the moot point. How serious the states are in curbing the menace can be gauged from the fact that Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, where honour crimes are the most prevalent, have not even replied to the notice sent to them by the Supreme Court full one year ago.

However, the disingenuous argument of the Centre does not stop at that either. The affidavit goes on to say that the Centre does not interfere in the personal laws of any community unless the demand comes from within the community. One wonders how the personal law comes into the picture. Nobody has the right to kill or harass someone just because he or she has married in own gotra (clan). A crime is a crime. Even if by some stretch of imagination, what happens within a clan is passed off as a “personal matter”, the fact remains that only 3 per cent of the documented cases of honour crimes involve couples married in their gotra. Most of the others relate to couples in inter-caste marriages.

The affidavit grandly says that the freedom of choice with respect to marriage has been specifically recognised and protected under our legal framework and under every personal law women have the same right to enter into a marriage with free and full consent. Ironically, this right has rarely been endowed on the young couples who dare to marry against the wishes of their families or even village elders. They are hounded, tortured and killed. Laws are very much there. Will someone kindly care to enforce them?

Sex selection in India

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

Image via Wikipedia


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.