Friday, March 16, 2012

Peddlers of brides

Dr Nimisha / Chandigarh

Children from poor states are trafficked to Haryana and Punjab for marriages

A con-woman was recently caught in Haryana who was in the habit of “marrying” people and then running away with the booty from her husband’s house. Taking advantage of the skewed sex-ratio in the state where finding a bride for a marginal farmer is extremely difficult, the con-woman used to “marry” a person after taking amount ranging from 1 lakh to 1.5 lakh and then used to decamp with valuables of the house when no one in her “marital” home was around. She “married” five times but was caught when trying the trick for the sixth time in a row.
The woman, with the help of her accomplices, had another trick up her sleeve. She used to threaten her “husband” that she will approach police for harassing her for dowry lest he part with an agreed amount. The hapless “husband” used to part with the money and that was the last he saw off his “wife”.
Given the social conditions prevailing in rural Haryana, there could be several such con-women going around with their “business” without any problem.
With the dubious distinction of being a state with one of the lowest sex ratio in the country, the marriageable men of Haryana had never had it so bad. While the rich farmers still manage to get wives, though with great difficulty, the marginal farmers and those on the edges find it extremely difficult.
No wonder they resort to buying brides as they have to look for somebody to do the domestic chores at house, look at their farms and animals and also to meet their biological needs.
Here, caste system goes for a toss. Nor is religion or the state from where the girl hails from given any consideration.
“After wedding, women belong to the caste and the religion from where their husbands hail from,” goes the saying in the rural belt. The “bride purchasers” have another reason and logic. “Beggars are not choosers,” they say.
With such a demand, triggered by years of sex determination tests and resultant female foeticide, the traffickers had never had it so good in the state, known otherwise for its agriculture, sports and hardworking people.
Recently, the Delhi police busted a gang that used to abduct young girls and sell them off to middle-aged men and their brothers in Haryana as brides. But abduction is not the norm as poor families in several states and the north east willingly give away their daughters in “marriage” to these men in Haryana who either have failed to find a bride or are widowers.
The families of these girls also got paid for the “brides”. Most of the girls are illiterate or came from extremely impoverished backgrounds where even one meal a day is difficult to come.
Haryana has also emerged as a major destination for trafficking of girls from the Northeast who are sold as brides in the state. Hissar has emerged as a prime destination for trafficking girls from Assam.
The state government realises the gravity of the problem but cannot do much. It can come in the picture only if there is a complainant.
The Haryana Government has implemented Centrally-sponsored Ujjawala scheme to prevent trafficking of women and children and for rehabilitation of the victims. Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Geeta Bhukkal said the scheme would facilitate rescue of victims from the place of their exploitation, keep them in safe custody and would provide rehabilitation services. The scheme ensures reintegration of the victims into the family and society. But again, the poor families of states like Jharkhand, Kerala, North East and others who have sold their daughters on their own accord, do not and will not complain. As per Census 2011, Haryana had 877 females per 1,000 males.
The last census in 2001 showed the sex ratio to be 861. The state ranks lowest among all 28 states on the sex ratio front. Against Kerala's high of 1,084 females per 1,000 males, Haryana reports a sorry number of just 877.
Ironically the sex ratio of 877 in Census 2011 is the highest since 1901. This perhaps explains why there are few females in the marriageable age in this northern state. Among the neighbouring states, sex ratio of Punjab is 893 and of Himachal Pradesh 974. With the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) Act being enforced strictly and the state being watched closely, things could improve say after 10-15 years. Till, then parts of the state continue with its practice of “purchasing brides” from other states.

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