Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Here, marriage is a ruse to sell wives FEATURE

m Pinki, a minor was pregnant when the police sent her to theAlwar Child Helpline in June 2004. A truck driver had brought her from West Bengal after 'marrying' her But the 'marriage' lasted as long as it took to reachAlwar She was then sold to another man, who sold her again. Her third 'owner' Ratiram Ahir a Meo from Alwar's Kishangarh tehsil, was caught, charged and sentenced to 7years' imprisonment. Pinki was sent to her village. aRehana (name changed) was first 'married' in Haryana. But she refused to put up with the exploitation, and went back to Jharkhand. Meanwhile Mushtaq, a resident ofAlwar lost his wry. He needed someone to take care of his two children but was too poor to afford marriage to a local girl. A fellow villager offered Rehana's match. It has been three months now, and she is happy at being respectably married THE MEWAT belt, stretching from Alwar to Faridabad, is full of such stories. Girls from Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Sikkim and even Madhya Pradesh are brought to the region in large numbers on the pretext of marriage. The poor families in these states find it hard to marry their daughters. Even a rickshaw puller in Bihar/Jharkhand expects a dowry of Rs 50,000, explains Nooraisa, who hails from Chatra district and is married to a Meo in Alwar The Meos are the Muslims of the Mewat region. When someone wins the trust of such families and offers to marry their daughter without dowry, they are more than happy They feel the girl would be 'settled' at last, even if hundreds of kilometers away Many such 'husbands', howevel: have other things on their mind - sex and money They keep the girls for a few weeks. Then they look for some poor villagers wanting to marry and sell them a wife. Fakruddin (name changed) has been in the business of bringing and selling girls for many years. His second 'wife', in fact, has stayed for eight years now simply because he couldn't make a deal for her She has borne him four children already "Those people (in the eastern states) are too poor to marry their girls locally, while the men here have no money to get a local match. It's simply a case of supply and demand," says Fakruddin. The grooms in Mewat are expected to shell out over 20 grams of gold as 'meher' (bride's security) while marrying a local girl. While this practice is more common among Meos, there have been cases where Hindu men 'married' poor Muslim women by pretending to be Muslims. Recently three girls raised a hue and cry when they real- ized they had to live with Hindu men and were sent back to their village. "Usually truck drivers bring the girls on the pretext of marriage. After using them for 15-20 days, they sell them for Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000," Fakruddin says. Fakruddin knows two brothers who bring one girl every month. The Alwar Child Helpline gets at least four to five such cases every month. These minors are from the eastern states and are usually unable to communicate with the police and social workers, reveals coordinator Purushottam Kumar "At any given time, there are 15-20 girls ready to be sold in Alwar alone. There would be more in Haryana," says Virendra Vidrohi, secretary of the Matsya Mewat Shiksha Evam Vikas Sansthan, an NGO that has done extensive research on the issue. Why doesn't the administration do anything about this trading of women? "There is an element of consent in these cases. Though the girls are exploited, most of them finally get married and settle down. Then they prefer to keep quiet about what they went through," a senior official said, off the record. These girls, having escaped the stigma of a sexually exploited woman, are content being a 'Paro' an outsider in local dialect. At least it's more respectable and they have a home and hearth to call their own. The trafficking a Truck drivers win the trust of poor families in eastern states and offer to marry their daughters without dowry a They bring their 'wives' to the Mewat belt, which stretches from Alwar to Faridabad a For the men of the Meo community of Mewat, marriage to a local is very expensive. They have to shell out over 20 grams of gold as 'meher' (bride's security) a The truck drivers sell them a wife for anywhere between Rs 10,000 and Rs 20,000



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