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Bride-trade…have you heard of it? - Another story of women exploitation.

Bride-trade…have you heard of it?

In the northern states of India, marriage is no more a sacred union of two individuals. Instead it has increasingly become a trade, whereby brides are purchased from far off states of Eastern India for a meager price ranging between Rs.30000 and Rs.50000. (600 to 1000 $) The situation does not look as surprising if we consider the sex ratios of these states, with Punjab having 893 females per 1000 males and Haryana lagging behind even more at only 877 females per 1000 males (as per the report in The Hindu dated 28/08/2011).

The wrinkles on Fazilaa’s face betray her troubled past. She was brought from Assam and sold to a disabled man in Mewat, Haryana, when she was barely 14 years old, the first of her several husbands. “He brought me to Delhi for 1500 rupees and got me married to a handicapped man. I was forced to do manual labour and even subjected to physical violence and torture,” Fazila, victim of bride trafficking said.

Women like Fazila were undergoing severe exploitation and abuse as brides before they were rescued by this man Shafiq Khan and his group Empower People an organization working for this cause. Bride trafficking is a form of trafficking where girls are deceived in the name of marriage and sold to other buyers. These girls are then kept by buyers as their sex slaves and exploited as laborers, Shafiq Khan, Founder, Empower People, said.

Used as sex slaves, sold and resold, these hapless victims come from vulnerable socio-economic backgrounds, an easy prey for bride traffickers. In the pretext of marriage and declining sex ratio the brides are bought as bonded labourers or to put them into sex trade. In some cases they are also used by group of men within the same family, Shafiq Khan said. http://www.timesnow.tv/videoshow/4412079.cms

This overall issue of bride-trade raises two major concerns. Firstly, what has caused the sex ratio to look so dismal? And secondly, the human rights issue involved with this whole practice of purchasing of brides. Looking at the first reason, the cause of the issue is the age old practice of discriminating against girl child which takes the form of female feticide and female infanticide. Carrying forward their primitive mindsets the people of these states continue to show a shameless bias for sons. They consider son a blessing who will earn for the family and will be the inheritor of its wealth. On the other hand, daughters are considered to be a burden. To us, this sounds appallingly backward but this is the very reality of these northern parts of our country. What follows this is a serious dearth of girls available for marriage and thus the practice of buying of brides. This leads us to our second issue. These girls who are purchased from poverty stricken villages of Orissa, Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Assam are treated as commodities. They are frequently subjected to increased domestic violence and abuse, forcibly cloistered inside their homes to cook, keep house and, above all else, produce male offspring(s). Thus, the major expectation from these girls is that they will provide the family with the son of the house.

The purchased brides are duplicated as maids and eventually abandoned. Moreover failure to give birth to a male child can result in dire consequences for them. Sunil Singh of the Rahi Foundation, an NGO active in Punjab, says, “These women, who have been bought as wives, have no rights at all. They are brought here only as commodities and nothing else. One can also see that women are being trafficked here from states with high poverty like Orissa and West Bengal because their families need the money given in exchange.” Apart from parents voluntarily selling their daughters off in dire need of money, there are cases of kidnapping as well where the families never get to know of the whereabouts of the girl.

Finding a solution for this will require us to look at both the problems simultaneously. The long term solution to the problem is literacy and awareness. There is a need to change the mindsets of the people regarding the girl child. And this is the only solution if we wish to completely uproot this problem. However, while this happens we cannot sit on it and let it take its time. Strong penal measures need to be adopted against killing and trafficking of girl child.

To curb the exploitation against these brides both government and human rights NGOs have an important role to play. While the government can come up with stricter and more effective laws against women exploitation, NGOs can help with the awareness and implementation part. Also these organizations can provide support to the victims of trade marriages by supporting them and helping them in becoming self dependent. They can provide assurance to these exploited women and fight for their cause.

It is important that we understand that with practices like these being followed in parts of India, the dream of India becoming a developed state will remain a distant dream forever.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Ending Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
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Comments

Nusrat Ara's picture

It is a shame.

It is a shame.

Nusrat

Sharontina's picture

Yes Nusrat

Its a shame but endemic dear Nusrat. The voices have to become powerful to bring it to an end.

Thanks and love.

Merlin Sharontina

Anita Muhanguzi's picture

It is a real shame for India

It is really shameful for India to still have the practices going on and nothing is being done about it. There should be ngos advocating for the rights of these women and i strongly encourage you to bring out more of these stories so that there is a lot of advocacy done around them. Women should not be sold like commodities. They are human being and should be given the opportunity to choose for themselves their choices in life. I pray that laws will be put in place to protect these vulnerable women. Stay blessed my sister and continue in the fight for women's rights.

Mrs. Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi
Head of Legal and Advocacy
Centre for Batwa Minorities
a.kiddu@gmail.com
cfmlegal@gmail.com
Skype: mrs_muhanguzi

Sharontina's picture

Thanks

Dear Anita,

Thanks for stopping by. Yours was a valuable comment.

Love.

Merlin Sharontina

Tessie's picture

ITS A PITY THAT WOMEN/GIRLS

ITS A PITY THAT WOMEN/GIRLS ARE SUBJECTED TO SUCH PRACTICE MY SISTER. THE FIRST TIME I READ ABOUT FEMALE INFANCTICDE IN INDIA WAS DURING MY COURSE ON PREVENTING VOILENCE AGAINST WOMEN. I AM AN ADVOCATE OF BAHAVIOURAL CHANGE AS A MEANS OF ENDING GENDER VOILENCE. THE MEN NEED A REORINTATION ON THE VALUES OF FEMALE CHILD AND THE GIRLS NEED TO KNOW THAT THEY HAVE A RIGHT TO LIFE AND RESPECT LIKE THE BOYS AROUND THEM. WOMEN NEED TO WORK AT THIS FROM THE CRADLE STAGE. PLEASE READ MY WRITE UP ON "THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE RULES THE WORLD" AND PASS IT ON TO OTHER SISTERS. MY HEART GOES OUT TO ALL MY SISTERS OUT THERE UNDERGOING PAINS JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE WOMEN. WE ARE NOT INFEROIR TO THE MEN INFACT THE FACT THAT WE BROUGHT THEM INTO THE WORLD AND CARE FOR THEM AS BABIES IS PROFF ENOUGH OF OUR WORTHINESS.HUGS AND KISSES TO YOU ALL. iT IS WELL. GOD BLESS.

salient cry

Sharontina's picture

Thanks

Dear Tessie,

Thanks for that comment. Of course i keep track of your postings too.

Stay blessed.

Merlin Sharontina

Mila's picture

Thanks Sharonita

Hi Sharonita,

Thank you so much for writing and sharing this important issues with the WorldPulse community. Your writing was great--it was well thought out, organized and gave details in the format of both facts and personal opinion! I am so sorry to hear about this issue. Please know that all of the women affected by this are in my thoughts and prayers. You are already making an impact by telling us about this problem. I already liked Empower People of facebook and twitter! Are there other NGOs that you recommend we support? So the government is turning a blind eye to this issue?

All the best,
Mila

PS--I just found out about this one too: http://genderbytes.wordpress.com/

Sharontina's picture

Thanks

Thanks for the support dear Mila.

Your words were a source of strength and motivation. I Thanks for your interest in supporting Empower People. I shall try to get more of other ngos.

Much love.

Merlin Sharontina

SSD's picture

Your post !

Dear Sharontina,

Your post is significant and I am grateful you have brought it to our attention.

We must unite in solidarity and voice loud as possible - through the weapon of creative and intelligent dialogue - which you surely have done!

Blessings and love,
Shaheen

Cheers,
Shaheen

Sharontina's picture

We are not alone...

Dear Friend,

We stand together. Our voice is powerful, a roar of thunder for the voiceless, yes and i should thank you one and all at WP.

Love and peace

Merlin Sharontina

Sheil's picture

Thank you for your story

Dear Sharon,

Your story once again highlights the troubling practice of aborting or killing girl babies, thus resulting in an unhealthy and dangerous ratio of men to women. Instead of women becoming more precious as they become rarer, they are being bartered and sold as cattle. Only, they are not cattle but our mothers, sisters, daughters.

Thank you for sharing your story,
Sheila

Sheila

Sharontina's picture

Great concern

Your concern towards this issue brings more power and strength to move forward dear Sheila.

Thanks for stopping by and for the valuable comment.

Peace and love.

Merlin Sharontina

Mukut's picture

Brilliant Piece

Sharontina,

Well done for bringing this issue to light. Increased awareness coupled with strict penal measures may act as a deterrent against selling of young brides. But we should also remember that the archaic mindset of the people need to change regarding girl and girl child.

Thank you for brilliantly putting forth the issue and the solutions to the light and helping in spreading awareness.

Much love,

Mukut Ray

Sharontina's picture

More to be done...

As you know this was just one among the burning issues Mukut, but we see that every issues is reaching its severity these days causing a never ending trauma and loss of dignity to womankind. The silence should be broken forever erasing those pains and helpless cries to be replaced with voices of courage and hope. I think our voices should grow louder for that. Lets make it.

Love and Peace.

Merlin Sharontina

weaverheart's picture

Great and important posting.

Thank you again, Sharontina, for another thoughtful and important post. Well done.
How do we change a system that is so imbedded in ignorance and habit, stemming from poverty and a lack of options, and thus opportunistic moments of greed to exploit those who are unable to help themselves.
Rescuing/rehabilitation/education/empowerment/advocacy of these young women seems to be the best first step, working with what we can. Once these girls/young women are given an opportunity for healing and can be educated/empowered to be be able to live their lives with skills and education that cannot be taken from them, they become the best advocates for helping others.
There is a wonderful ngo based in Kolkata called Women's Interlink Foundation (WIF). They work in many different arenas. The founder, Aloka Mitra is (to me), a living saint with a heart as big as the world. Her vision is tireless and she is Mother to all of these young women. The web site is: www.womensinterlinkfoundation.org
Some of the programs they have in place include shelter homes for girls that have been rescued from trafficking and slavery. The girls are given an education, or training in an number of different trades (jewelry making, tailoring, hospitality industry, block printing) and thus empowered to live their life (with their own bank account where they can put money they have earned by selling their wares!) One of the partner ngo's which is based in the US and works with WIF is called Made by Survivors. www.madebysurvivors.com
I have gone to India on two volunteer trips with MBS and have had the great fortune to visit the shelter homes with MBS and WIF and meet the amazing young women whose hearts are being set free and whose smiles bring greater joy than one could ever imagine, no matter where they have come from and having experienced some VERY dark times, We aren't given their back story, what is important, says Aloka, is their present, and their future. And they are clearly looking ahead. It is incredibly inspiring.
Thank you again for writing, there is much food for thought, and rather than become overwhelmed at the depth of the problem, it is helpful to look at what IS being done currently and that although we have a great deal more to accomplish, there is good work being done on behalf of these sisters.

With love,
Laura

Laura R.

Sharontina's picture

Role of NGOs is great

Dear Friend,

Your comments always mean a lot bringing in the valuable feedbacks and paving way for more of exploring and researching on the issues straightaway in the field. Your informations have helped me many a times too. I am happy with your concern for the core problems and threats the girls are going through and your interest in visiting the NGOs to ensure their betterment. Yes, i feel that NGOs are the best means to bring a majority of positive changes in the society. Their existence in these places where there is real need has worked out wonders in the lives of many women who would have otherwise just disappeared from earth or would have lived in a miserable and pathetic condition or as mere creatures. Thanks to the NGOs, these women have turned into great leaders in their community and sometimes changed the world around them.

Love and Peace.

Merlin Sharontina

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