Little did Anwari Khatoon know about her impending doom when she set out to Haryana on a seemingly innocuous visit a few years ago. On arriving there, she was persuaded by her relative and the man who had accompanied her from her village in Jharkhand to marry a truck driver with six children. Forced into the marriage in 2005, she was bought for Rs 10,000.
A flourishing market for brides owes its existence to the severely skewed sex ratio resulting from a discriminatory preference for sons amongst to-be parents in several northern states of the country. Haryana, houses a profitable business model that relies on a constant supply of women belonging to poor, naive families residing in downtrodden rural areas in states like Assam, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa and Bihar. The going rate for buying a girl in the Haryana is anything between Rs 4,000 and Rs 30,000.
Sex-ratio in Haryana
This imbalance in the sex ratio has left many men without wives giving rise to the egregious trade.
Finding brides for men who are well past their 20s is almost impossible in Haryana unless you are willing to pay for a commodity with a price tag. These women who are known as ‘paros’ in the district of Mewat are objectified and ultimately turned into sex slaves to be plundered and abused by their buyers. “Every village has five to six girls who have been brought from outside,” says Rishikant who works with Shakti Vahini, an NGO that works to rescue paros and give them a better life.
Objects to be thrown away
Once bought, the paros can almost never lead a normal life. They are forced to labour in the fields and become de facto sex-slaves who are sold and resold several times to quench the thirst for money in times of need. They cut off ties with their families and bear children whenever it is expected of them.
When these women are widowed, they have nowhere to go as they are not accepted by their in-laws owing to their alien status. These areas even have a common saying referring to the appalling conditions of these women. It is said that it is impossible to find a paros’ grave as she is passed on from man to man and so doesn’t stay in one place for long.
Why are they sold?
As reported by the Hindustan Times, a field study conducted by the NGO Drishti Stree Adhyayan Prabodhan Kendra revealed that out of 10,000 households in Haryana, over 9,000 married women were bought from other states. Girls are lured from their despondent lives with promises of jobs, marriage and money and are brought to Haryana.
The family is often paid meagre amounts hovering around Rs 1000 in exchange for their daughter. Facing morbid realities of survival, these households settle for the small amount oblivious to the profits being reaped by the middlemen.
Women brought from outside are used to settle debt and pay bills. They are also given away as gifts when they are found to be unsuitable or disliked in the family that bought her. A paro is an asset who can be shared or lent at the whims of her owner.
Can we stop this?
Overcoming unrelenting tribulations, several paros have forced themselves to make peace with their lives. Offences committed by the traders of brides are accepted as a part of daily life.
Right under the noses of ignorant authorities, savagery- like the one that has unfolded in Haryana- takes shape while simultaneously destroying societies and butchering humanity.
The educated must fight for injustices that go unnoticed and amplify when left unchecked.
The Logical Indian strongly urges the Government of Haryana to save the girls of our country. As Lao Tzu has said, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step”.