Human Trafficking, a felony that most of the people feel aversion towards but in some distant rural part of India this sinful offence has been going on for ages and still subsists. Women are being trafficked from other states or countries to become bride slaves.
But despite numerous efforts by the governments and organisation from around the world how has it managed to thrive till date?
Slavery had been a sickening part of world history and can be dated back from as early as 3500 BC among Sumer in Mesopotamia. Today, except for penal labours, all from of slavery is illegal. In spite of this Human Trafficking remains to be an international concern.
About 40 million people worldwide are enslaved, according to a data released in 2019; 38% of which are in forced marriages. According to data from the National Crime Records Bureau, 2016; 33,855 people are trafficked either kidnapped or lured for forced marriages, half of which were underaged.
Paro: bride slaves of Haryana
The misogynist attitude of India’s rooted patriarchal society has led to fretting sex-ratio in various states. The state that stands first in the queue is Haryana, with 831 women per 1000 men. In this states, women are not safe after birth but soo are not before birth; because of female foeticide, baby girls vanish from mother’s womb without a trace.
This has caused a severe lack of women in the state, leaving thousands of men without a wife. To fill this gap thousands of women around the country are being trafficked and then sold to becomes bride slaves (paro) for the rest of their lives.
Usually, these victims are trafficked from extremely poor states like Assam, Bengal, Jharkhand and Bihar. They are either kidnapped or the victim’s family is lured with money in exchange for their daughter and with a promising luxurious life for their daughter.
Hasina was 14-years old when she was trafficked from Kolkata to Gurnawat Haryana where she was married to a man 25-years older than her age.
She is now 25 and has no remembrance of her past. She lives in a small hut without any water or electricity supply with her 4 kids, two sons and two daughters, whom she is raising singlehandedly. Hasina toils on the field to feed her family.
Tahmina was 13-years old, when her own elder sister along with her husband trafficked her to Haryana, 2000 Km away from her hometown, away from her mother. Where she was forced to marry a man 30-years older than her.
An anti-trafficking charity, Empower people have helped her to escape and reunite with her mother. When she met her mother, she was so terrified that she couldn’t talk. After some time she dictated the horrific incident that happened with her. She just drew on a pink paper where she wrote that she was sold for 50,000 INR.
She said that her sister promised her to take to Delhi, but instead they took her to Haryana. Tahnina says, “They took me to Haryana and kept me in a room. Strange men were coming to see me and offering money and my own sister was outside that room knowing what was going to happen to me”.
Contact Marriages: bride slaves in Hyderabad
Other than Charminar Fort, Hyderabadi Biryani and Hossein Lakes; the capital city of two states Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Hyderabad is also famous for contracts marriages. For decades the city has been selling women, usually underaged to the foreigners visiting India on visitor’s Visa.
Muneera Begum, 2009
Muneera Begum was 11-years old when she was married off to a 75-years old Omani man by her stepfather. She recalls that all her stakeholders; her mother, stepfather and the agent were paid 15000 INR for the deal.
Promptly after the nikah, she was taken to a hotel, where she stayed for two months. In the duration, she was brutally tortured physically and mentally by her husband. After two months his husband sent her back to her parent’s home and he fleed back to Oman.
Three months later the incidents, after finding herself pregnant; through the agent who made the deal at the first place Muneera tried to contact her husband only to hear ‘Talaq, Talaq, Talaq.’
Muneera is not an isolated case
What happened with Muneera is not an isolated case every year thousand of such deals take place in Hyderabad. The victim is either abandoned after a certain period or flee with their owner overseas as bride slaves.
According to Shaheen Women’s Resource and Welfare Association, a Hyderabad-based association that is trying end malfeasance of contract marriages; in the year 2017, 2018 and 2019 there have been 153, 83 and 66 registered cases of contract marriages respectively. But the Association believes that the true numbers are much higher, as most of them go undiscovered.
Rachakonda Police Commissioner, Mahesh M Bhagwat says in his statement; “Many men from West Asia come here on 15-day visas as visitors, solicit girls and then leave the country. It becomes extremely difficult for us to catch these people once they have left the country because the embassies often don’t cooperate and there are other protocol issues”
Bride Slavery: The long-lived tradition
The above cases are not stories, but the realities of thousands of women who till date are living a miserable life as bride slaves. A documentary publishes in November 2016 shows that most of these cases don’t end well. Some of these victims are even sold twice or thrice while in some places, one woman is married to 3 or 4 men together.
For very long these bride slaves have been treated as commodities, which once used can be passed to others or when bored can be abandoned. Slavery of any kind in an indictable crime legally but above that, it is a violation of human rights.