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 IGLP Asian Regional Workshop was held in Bangkok, Thailand from January 5-11, 2017. I was fortunate enough to be one of the 56 research fellows and participants from over 45 countries, with 46 IGLP faculty members in collaboration. The participants and faculty members introduced themselves and briefly described their research interests and current projects. I was one of the very few students who came from a feminist and gender studies program, which meant either we stood out more or at times became slightly lost in the crowd of potential legal professionals. Nevertheless, when it was my turn to introduce myself and my project on the emerging issue of 'bride trafficking,' I was pleased to see the excitement and curiosity in people's faces.
The irony is that the companies are using CSR for beautifying or humanizing their business without making a sensible change. In most of the cases companies, who directly exploit the environment and natural resources offer direct services like schools or health facilities or different sorts of training for working class.
I called her to inquire about a property case which she had filed in local court with the help of our organization, after death of her ‘husband’ Razaq.
She said that she is not interested in that case or any property because it was not first time when she was abandoned by some family, it is her fate so she decided to marry once again and now living with an old man in Palwal. She said that this man is good and she showed her hope to be in family forever. She invited me to visit her home as a brother but also warned that I will visit her new in-laws home personally and alone. She wanted me to make a call after reaching Palwal only then she can guide me to her new home, she did not her address. She assured me that her number will always be reachable. And if she changes her number she will inform me for sure.
What is the purpose of celebrating the victory of independence, when our sisters are just seen as an item to study the concept of supply and demand. Why are we taught that life is not a monetary product, when on the other hand a daughter is born with a price tag over her. Where is the morality of wise men of India. Where is the philanthropy of saints?
Alongside high profile allegations of philandering, China's bachelors have been getting bad press. Recently blamed not just for China's property bubble, they have also been ascribed responsibility for the resulting savings rates aggregating to help cause global macroeconomic imbalances. If it turn out that China's most powerless might in fact be rather quite powerful, the topic warrants greater attention, least of all since sex ratio biases have yet to reach their social peak.
Sex ratio at birth usually ranges from 102-106 live male births per 100 live female births. Modern technologies and restrictions on childbearing help to explain why China's sex ratio has increased significantly over recent decades. Between 1982 and 2005 the ratio jumped from 107 to 120, and in some provinces to higher than 130. In absolute numbers, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences has predicted that by 2020 China will have more than 30-40 million more boys and young men than women under the age of 20.
Table 1 , Over all Sex ratio1 (Female per 1,000 males) from 1901 to 2001
In the year 1951 and 1981 sex ratio slightly improved in Haryana. In the same period number of girls increased to 865 and 911 respectively, in the source area.These figures show a slight difference in sex ratio between West Bengal (source area) and Haryana but not much difference occurred as it is believed. The tradition of importing girls in the region is known for the last fifty years. And as can be gathered from the above table, no much difference of sex ratio between source and destination area is observed. It is interesting to note that in 1951, West Bengal has 865 females per thousand males, whereas Haryana has much higher 871 females per 1000 males. Hence, the hypothesis that the ‘outnumbered’ girls from West Bengal compensate the declining sex ratio in destination region cannot stand before the reality. On the other hand if we compare child sex-ratio (see table below) with sex ratio it clearly shows that female infanticide is heavily practiced in West Bengal. In no way West Bengal is less patriarchal society than Haryana.Table 2 : child sex-ratio2 (female per 1000 males) of population Aged 0 to 6 year (1961 to 2001)
Numbers of people in Haryana are employed with police, army and transport mostly as truck drivers who during their visits and travel to other region started marrying outside their own society. These marriages provided links for bride trade. In the beginning they started this marriage business to acquire (bonded) labourer for their booming agriculture and animal husbandry. While the poor parents married their daughters to the ‘dilliwalahs’--as they are known in Purvottar—because they did not ask for dowry. However this kind of marriage is not considered socially respectable in the source area and more often regarded as ‘thag vivah’. These marriages provided further contacts to get girls and make them adapt according to men’s want. Interesting part of the marriage is that most of the molki girls are second, third and fourth ‘women’ and the age of man are almost double that of the girl’s.
The status of molki women is quite bad in Jat Land. The cases of “Paro” have come to light from Mewat region. Two cases were reported recently from the jat land where the girls were murdered and the case got registered with the police. Media remained ignorant of the incident and reported nothing on this issue from this region. Police officers in similar way are ignorant and it is natural that the voices are suppressed in this state of affairs. It is suggested that these molki women are not satisfied and happy with their status and situation, and they have to bear all this only for the sake of their livings and due to lack of any support system. They are well aware that they are being used as a toy on use and throw basis. Therefore if they get a chance to escape they had no way other than running away from their ‘homes’ with their belongings or they would be sold to other person. This lead to maximum number of molki women to adapt to the situation they are going through since they are helpless and cannot do anything. Some of the incidents have come to light where molki woman revolted and ran away to ‘unknown’ places. It has also been seen that some of the women took to sex trade to escape from their life as molki since they were unable to return back to their ancestral home. While others became member of cheating gangs, who arranged marriages with these girls who later on fled with groom’s belongings.
This issue has regularly been reported by so-called main stream and local media. Molki’ is an exact and true example of Catherine McKinnon’s (an American feminist, scholar) definition of the relation between the two major sexes, “man fucks woman: subject verb object”. Visit any region of Haryana and you will find Catherine’s definition to be true. In spite of the widespread and increasing practice of bringing molki, there is absolutely no attention paid towards this by government or the NGOs.
From agro-field and animal husbandry to so called ‘women’s work’ she is expected to do it all as ‘her duty’, and one can imagine if women who are brought as legal wives with huge dowry have to do all these then what happens to those who are bought and brought from far away? This may not be directly a case of women trafficking under definition of ITPA but circuitously it is! It is a very serious violation of women’s most basic human rights. Our network Empower People is doing a research on this issue. Before a wide research, it will not be appropriate to say anything conclusively. But early findings suggest seriousness of the situation. In Jaatland of Haryana, molki owning villages become the source of spreading the practice of molki horizontally as well as vertically. In the village of Kharakramji molkis were mainly from Maharashtra and in the village Shillakhedi mainly from West Bengal. We found that if a molki brought from one village in West Bengal other molkis would be brought from the same village because the first molki becomes a ‘contact’ who facilitate other men to get girls from her home region. And the ‘husbands’ of these molkis work as agents. For example, Hari Om (name changed) from Kharakramji, who did not want to be named, admitted proudly that he owns a molki. He also admitted that he was continuously in contact with the other dalals of the city. He warned us of dire consequences if we write anything about molki. He told us with pride that he will be bringing more molkis into the village for other unmarried and unemployed men who come to him to arrange one for them. A panchayat member of village Safidon admitted the bare fact, “bhai swaad len ke maare molki lyavain hain, saaryan ka kaam chalya reh ar ghar main lugai dikhe ja”( brother, they bring molki for enjoyment, all (the male members) take advantage of her and for the neighbours they have a girl to show off.)
It is found that the ‘husbands’ of molki and her so-called in-laws become the agents and they keep in contact with the bigger agents based on Hissar, Sonipat and Jind, the epicentre of the trafficking. The agents dwell in the village itself. Sometimes they are truck drivers or the people who regularly go out. A molki is sold more than once in many of the cases by their ‘husbands’/agents and the price varies from Rs.7, 000/- to Rs.40, 000/ according to their beauty and sexual experience. The molki owners also lead other relatives and neighbours to a place where they can find a molki. The person, for whom molki is being bought, affords all the expenses occurred in the way.
Our work in the field revealed a number of reasons why women are imported into Jaatland. It includes, practice of karewa, for cheap labour, small landholdings due to division of property, scarcity of girls, over age and heavy dowry. It is interesting to note that on the one hand men are purchasing girls and on the Second hand, graph of dowry is touching sky.
Bride trafficking is one of traditional Slavery system which has a deepliner history of the region so rescue and some other immediate relief or any harsh law can’t change the phenomenon. It can be abolish by cultural renaissance and sensitization of people. And we are working for the same.
Nowadays female feticide is a major pushing factor for this form of trafficking. Approximately there are ten million trafficked women in haryana and punjab. and it will regularly growing
The glossary of abusive words has increased with a new entrant, ‘paro’. The word ‘paro’ is well known today in regions like Haryana, Punjab, western Uttar Pardesh and Rajasthan. As with so many derogatory words, paro comes from the degrading and disparaging attitude of men towards women: it means ‘woman who is purchased for a few bucks’, ‘paro’ are those girls who are bought and brought from eastern Uttar Pardesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and Bengal to compensate for the shortage of shortage of women of child bearing age. She is not a prostitute in open terms, but her levirate marriage today means that it is not only after the death of her husband that his younger brother takes his place, she is also obliged to have sexual relations with his brothers while her husband is still alive. How can it be appropriate to call a woman living like this a ‘wife?’
‘Paro’ is an exact and true example of Catherine McKinnon’s definition of the relation of the two major sexes, “man fucks women: subject verb object”. This kind of only example in Indian classical texts, is Draupadi (A character in the epic of Mahabharata who had pandavas— the five brothers as her husbands. The five brothers had their separate wives too.) Visit any region of Haryana and you will find Catherine’s definition to be true. In spite of this widespread and increasing practice, there is no wide or authoritative research in this field available, but scattered information and data do draw a sketchy picture of the situation. From field and animal husbandry to so called ‘women’s work’ a woman is expected to do it all as ‘her duty’, and you can imagine if women who are brought as legal wife with a huge dowry has to do all these what happens to those who are bought and brought from far away
This may not directly be a case of human trafficking but indirectly it is! And it’s very serious violation of women’s most basic human rights. Our radical organisation ‘Empower People’ is researching this situation now. Before completion of this research it will not be appropriate to say anything conclusively. But already some of the examples we have found underline the seriousness of the situation. One man who is held in very high regard in his society for being vocal against female foeticide and gender inequality, agreed to speak to me and when I got closer, I found that he has two sons and no daughter, wife and his widowed mother take care of agro & domestic chores and this man has took to social service.
Paro or Molki : Perception and Causes (An unknown face)
Our research reveals that in Jaatland of Haryana is that paro or molki owning villages become the source of spreading the practice of paro horizontally as well as vertically. In the village of Kharakramji the paro were mainly from Maharashtra and in the village Shillakhedi the paro are mainly from West Bengal. We discovered that a paro who had been imported from another village then became the contact through whom other paros would be imported from her area. The ‘husbands’ of those paro or Molki are were indulging in the heinous work of dalali (Broking system) . For example, Hari Om (name changed) from Kharakramji, who did not wanted to be interviewed, but admitted with a glory that he owns a paro. He also said that he is continuously in contact with the other dalals ( traffickers or brokers) of the city. He warned us of dire consequences if we write anything about the paro or polyandry. He told us with pride that he would be bringing more paro into the village for the other unmarried and unemployed men (people) who come to him to arrange for a paro for them. A member of Panchayat of Kharakramji village admitted this fact. He told me “they import molki to satisfy their sexual needs, all the brothers take advantage of her and for the neighbours they have a bride to show”
We found that the ‘husbands’ of the paro or molki and their relatives become the agents and they are continuously in contact with the agents in Hissar, Sonipat and Jind, which epicenter of the trafficking. The agents dwell in the village itself. Sometimes they are truck drivers or the people who are continuously out-goers. A paro is sold more than once in many cases by the agents and their ‘husbands’ and the rate varies from Rs.7, 000/- to Rs.40, 000/. The paro owners also lead their neighbours and relatives from other village to a place where they can find a paro. The person for whom the paro is being bought affords all the expenses throughout the way.
Our research in the field revealed a number of reasons why women are imported into Jaatland, including the practice of polyandry, the desire for cheap labour, the fact that small landholdings and division of property, scarcity of girls, the passing of marrying age and heavy dowry. But, the irony is that on one hand men are purchasing girls and on the other graph of dowry is touching sky.
Historical evolution of Paro (molki)
Social acceptance of karewa and its prevalence can be seen in folklore and local proverbs . Also this is noticed by one British administrator, observing the practice in early 20th century onward, recorded that even where there was only one married brother, the other brothers had free access to his wife. (M. L. DARLING, the famed writer and civil administrator of this region, writing in Prosperity and Debt, first edition, 1925 reprint, South Asia Books, Delhi, 1978) an oft-repeated story of those days jocularly related even now, to show what a marital association entailed in the past, concerns a new bride who had four or five jeth or dewar All of them had free sexual access to her. After fifteen or twenty days of her marriage, the bride requested her mother-in-law to identify her husband from among them. Upon this the mother-in-law came out in the gali (street) and started to howl loudly; when asked about it she replied: " It is difficult for me to live in this house any more. I have been married for forty years, yet even now I have never asked anyone to determine the identity of my husband. This fifteen-day-old bride is already asking about her's." (Prem Chowdhry “An Alternetive to the sati modal : Perceptions of a Social Reality in Folklore” )
The story gives a peep into the popular perception of sexual exploitation as it existed in those days and the extent to which it was accepted as common knowledge. Women's awareness of this exploitation is highlighted even more directly and in a very perceptive manner in a lokgeet (folk song), not commonly heard these days, sung by a young bride. While recounting her enormous work load she is made to tackle in her in-law's house every day, the bride revealingly discloses :
“Beaten and forced to live with my brother-in-law in sin, unending house work has emaciated me, oh God!”
In another ragini (song), used for enacting a swang (local folk theatre), the theme revolves around the unwelcome advances of the jeth who forces himself on his sister-in-law and refuses to take no for an answer. The proverb originates from the earlier practice, given above, which shows the brother-in-law to have sexual access to the sister-in-law. Even the father-in-law, given a chance, was not above the sexual exploitation of his daughter-in-law. That this was customarily practiced was recorded by British officials in the late 19th century. Certain villages which need not be named, have the evil reputation of deliberately getting girls older than their boy husbands in order that the father of the latter may have illicit enjoyment of them (E. Joseph, Customary Law of the Rohtak District, Lahore, 1911).
In fact, colonial Punjab and Haryana witnessed instances of the father-in-law claiming karewa marriage with the widowed daughter-in-law in
the mid-1930s (RATTIGAN, William Henry. 1966 A digest of civil law for the Punjab, 82). From the sexual point of view these attempts may very well have been to legitimize an already existing relationship which had possibly left the widowed Bahu (daughter-in-law) pregnant. An old folktale highlights these aspects:
A widowed daughter-in-law conceived from her sasura (father-in-law). She was deeply embarrassed about what the people were going to say. The father-in-law reacted to this by asking her to stitch him a quilt full of patches. This quilt he wrapped around himself and sat down in the front courtyard of the house. All the men and women who saw him laughed at the old man and commented on his heavily patched-up quilt. After a few days they stopped, having got used to him and his quilt. It was then that the old man said: " Look here, you woman, now it's all over. People take just a few days to get used to a thing."
The wide-scale social acceptance in the past of this level of sexual exploitation of women for the satisfaction of men has now been transformed into the current practice of buying women ‘paro’ or ‘Molki’ – women who are purchased from outside state - from West Bengal, Maharastra, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Pahad, Uttrakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
Where paro women are imported they work as cheap labour. They are sent to do the daily farm work while the local brides seldom go to the field. One head of a family, Ram Singh (name changed), told us, “they (the paro) do all types and all of the work, they run very fast here and there, like in the fields, home, cattle, management of water, night duty.”
He also justified paro as a result of the law on land and property ownership “the size of the land remains the same but the claimants increased generation by generation, employment is scanty, education gives nothing, then tell who will come with marriage proposals and why?”
There is no doubt that the scarcity of girls is one of the reasons behind the import of the girls from other states. However, there are mixed opinions expressed when people were interviewed. Some of them agreed that there is an obvious relationship between female foeticide and the practice of paro. As an elderly women lamented “they kill their girls and now they bring other’s here, it’s like as if our ‘Barseen’ ( a kind of green leafy weeds for cattle) supply has run out and now we are going to make sure our neighbours does too”. On the other hand, some of the people clearly denied the relationship between female foeticide and importing of Molki or paros. A social activist Deepak Chahal, told us “until now the of killing the girls has not had any effect on encouraging the practice of paro, but for the upcoming generation or in future, its worst effects will be seen”.
When we looked at the role that age may play in the paro system, we found that the owners or the ‘husbands’ are in the age group of 25 - 40 years. In the words of jeth of a paro, Suresh Kumar Kataria, “ we did not have land and employment, so the people were not coming with proposals of marriages for our son, so at last we had to bring a molki”.