EMPOWER PEOPLE Blog
Authors are Research scholer Associated with Centre of Excellence in Cultural Fixation on Honour: A Gender Audit of Punjab and Haryana, Panjab University, Chandigarh.
The ‘Paro’ and ‘Molki’ are well known names attached to women in regions like Haryana, Punjab, western Uttar Pardesh and Rajasthan. “Paro” is a name given to the bought brides in brought Mewat Region of Haryana. “Molki” is also a derogatory name of such brides in Jatland of Haryana’. ‘Paro’ are those girls who are bought and brought from Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and Bengal to compensate for the shortage of women of childbearing age. In our Indian society, an early age, marriage is favored and there is a concept of loss of honour for the family if anyone in the family remains single. Young adolescents are in great demand, because in Indian Society virgins are considered to be the best and top in live for the price .Their price goes down with each subsequent sale as she grows older. According to the report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime “The demand for ‘marriageable age’ girls is so intense that organized trafficking rackets have started operating in Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. Bride trafficking is a form of organized trafficking where young girls are lured and enticed away from families in the name of marriage. The founding member of “Empower People” an NGO working with the survivor of ‘Trafficked Brides’ told that this old age practice is rooted in the history of this region because from the beginning of the history the northern region has been a battleground . There are many social customs (Polygamy, claiming of women along with Jewellery and property as war prizes, child marriage and Krewa) which lead to the lower status of women in this region. The phenomenon of Bought Brides is not new to this region of India. These marriages have always taken place in parts of the Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. According to M. S. Darling(1928) after gambling and drinking, the purchase of the bride is common.To Purchase brides large sums are spent throughout the Central Punjab during pre independence period. The phenomenon was not prevalent in towns, but is familiar to those who live in rural settings. These young females, with ages ranging from 10 onwards, hail from places like Orissa, Bengal, Mizoram, Assam, Bihar, Nepal, etc.
The women uniting in such marriages are absolute strangers such as with different languages, food habits, kinship and marriage norms. In this context, the burden of adjustment falls entirely on the migrant bride. The men who bought these brides think that they can do anything with them and no one will question them. These women fulfill their sexual desire and serves these men as labour slaves. They are kept as servants by men and they often experience physical or sexual violence in that environment.In many instances, it was found that these brides have been forced into polyandry and engage in sexual activity with male members of the family. Further the caste based exclusion and humiliation is experienced both in the public and within the private space of the family. In a country like India, where every state has its own cultural and ethnic identity, such marriage alliances where brides are from different regions are bound to have major social repercussions/problems. According to Mukherjee (2013) in these kinds of marriage alliances the couples, especially the women face scary challenges of adjustment and acceptance in the new environment. Once the bride gets tied in this kind of knot she has to face multiple kind of tribulation at each stage of her life.
In order to understand this phenomenon ‘as a problem’ of the society, a one day Conclave was organized in the Nuh city of Mewat. First time in the history of India an ‘NGO Empoer People’ collaborated with the District Legal Services Authority Mewat, along with the cooperation of local people formed a committee, and “Paro Conclave” was organised on 6th, Aug.2016
The main objective of the conclave was to bring all these purchased brides at a common platform to discuss their problems and issues they were facing in their life and give them legal standing in the society.
The conclave was organized in order to empower and inculcate confidence among brides who were from other states.
To bring awareness among these women about their constitutional rights.
The main thrust was to bring these women under the umbrella of social security schemes.
Paros from the nearby villages were much excited for the conclave and nearly 200 such Paros gathered at the venue before the programme. Their motivational level could be judged from the fact that the official timing of the Paro Conclave was 2:00 pm, but leaving aside their household chores and left aside their families as, as these brides started gathering at the venue from 9:00 am in the morning. Most of them delightedly conveyed that it was the first time in the that the function was organized only for them. Many of such brides came out for the first independently from their homes and this happiness was blissfully evident on their faces and merriness felt in their voices. Many of the respondents of this trafficking business narrated that they had lost all kinds of hopes and expectations of any such help from this society. Fortunately for them this conclave provided them with a ray of hope that there were people in this society who are thinking for their welfare. This was evident from the narrative of one of the such brides:
“Pahli Bara hamara liya kisi na kuch kiya”
(Sajida 49 Years, Muslim, Hyderabad)
(First time ever for us someone has done something)
Another reason behind their higher motivational level was that through this conclave for the first time they could vent/share their feelings and got the opportunity to discuss their problems with community members.
The conclave started with the speech of Mr. Saleem Khan, Coordinator of the Empower People. In his speech he briefly gave out the background and severity of this problem engulfing in rural Haryana. Soon after his speech a documentary film based on life of a survivor who later became community leader and activist with EMPOWER PEOPLE was Screened to inspire participants of the Conclave. The film inspired not only the Trafficked brides but also helped officials, media personnels and research scholars in order to understand this phenomenon as a problem.
During discussion in the conclave, some of these women shared that, they have been sold more than five times and continually abused by their family members in the name of marriage.
They shared that no one even consider them as brides or daughter in law of the family they feel they are not wives. Since they are purchased against a certain amount and which make them easy peiry to treated like a commodity for fulfilling the sexual desires of male members of the entire family. They have no status as a bride and no such marriage ceremony takes place in all most of the cases. This is evident from the narratives of these women.
A women Respondent said:-
‘Meri shaadi hui hai mujhe pata hi nahi tha, woh keh rahe the rishteydaar ko milne ja rahe hai, Phir hum yaha se kabhi wapis nahi gaye’
(Woman respondent 35 years, Muslim,West Bengal)
(I got married, I did not know, they said that we are going to meet relatives, after that I never came back to my village).
‘Meri Khala ki ladki ne mujhe apne dewar ke sath bhej diya’
(Woman respondent 45 years, Muslim, Assam)
(I was sent with my younger brother-in-law)
‘Yaha ke log kehte hai tu randi hai,tum log yahan pesha karna ata ho’
(Woman respondent 47 years, Muslim, Hyderabad)
(People call us whorse, you are here for your prostitute business).
Is Tarha ki shaadi ko log hiin ki najron sa dekhta hain
(Woman respondent 29years , Muslim, Bihar)
(Such alliances are seen as low moral).
One of the Official from the district administration also narrated the status of these brides in their family as:
Shadi karna gunaah nahi hai par inhe aurat ka darza to dena chahiye, mewat mien bolte hai, Bangalan hai, bhai bihar ki hai,
(It is not a crime to get married, they should at least get the status of married women. In Mewat they are called by the derogatory names like Bangalan, Biharan or Paro).
Also the CJM of Mewat during discussion told that the problem in this area is that ,these women are not given the status of wives but they change hands and are sold multiple times. Discussion between survivors and different stake holders established the fact that woman who came as a bride 30 years back were still struggling to attain the status of a wife. Since the money is involved and bought too, hence they are treated like any other commodity and sold like cattle. Not only the family but the local society have a basic bais against them. It was evident from stories narraited by survivors that even their children are not being accepted in mainstream society.
The Conclave also established the fact that most of trafficked brides lacks their identification documents i.e ration cards, voter id or adhar. It could be a surprising fact that women living in a family for long are not registred as family members in government documents or schemes. Due to this problem of identifiaction they could not avail the benefit of Social walefarre schemes, their voting rights are also violated. Because of this issue of identification their offsprings also face the problems of enrollment in schools. It can be observed that their political, Social and constitutional rights stand totally violated.
The Conclave was chaired by MM Dhonchak, District Session Judge Mewat, in his speech he highlighted that human trafficking is a serious crime itself and if we talk about the trafficking of women, then this crime becomes much more serious. He assured all kind of supports from the local judiciary to the women and NGO working with trafficked brides.
The valedictory speech was given by CJM of Mewat, in his speech he highlighted this Phenomenon of Bride Buying is a form of Human Trafficking. He further said that the community of Mewat should accept this phenomenon as a problem, then only such kind of conclave will be beneficial for these brides.
It can be said that it was a welcoming start in order to tackle the problem where most women are exploited physically, emotionally, sexually and made to work like a slave. These women are not culturally accepted by the community members too. On initation of EMPOWER PEOPLE Local Community, District Administration, law enforcement agencies and Academicians are coming together and collaborating to tackle the problems faced by these brides. Such common plateform expected to help trafficked brides who can’t be rescued or repatriated. Such Conclave and multi dimensional initative would be a great example for different districts who already have a number of trafficked bride living in pathetic situation. The conclave and cooperation from community is leading a battle for dignity of women in difficult circumstances.