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Wedding dream dies slow death

Tuesday 7 February 2006, by MANJUL*Tarannum

Lucknow, February 6: Having lived most of her life in misery, Shyama (name changed), a labourer’s daughter had only one dream: to be married off in a well-off family. She thought the dream had come true when a man came from Delhi to her small village in Hardoi. She was taken away on the pretext of a lavish wedding, which, alas, never materialised. Far away from her village, she began a life with her ?husband’, though there are no legal documents supporting her marriage.

The catch? The man has another ?wife’ - this marriage recognized by all proper documents.

Like Shyama, hundreds of minor girls are trafficked to different parts of the country from Uttar Pradesh every year on the pretext on being married off; only to live a life of a ?sexual bride’.

The decreasing female-to-male ratio is adding to this new form of trafficking, which first came to notice in 2001. “Minor girls are not kidnapped or forcefully picked up; they are taken away from their parents on the pretext of marrying them in well-off families,” says social activist Rishi Kant of the Delhi-based Shakti Vahini. “This is the easiest attraction for families that want a better life for their daughters. And even before they realise, their daughter becomes a victim of trafficking.”

Kant - who is here at present to participate in ?Leadership or Results’, a workshop to prevent trafficking and HIV-AIDS in the states - has extensively studied the trafficking scenario in the state. And his findings are startling.

According to him, such trafficking of girls is growing in districts like Etah, Badayun, Jalaon, Jhansi, Hardoi and Etawah. “The falling sex ratio can be attributed this growth - there are just 898 females per 1,000 males in the state, and the condition is far worse in western UP.

“We have seen families of daily labourers where the parents, suddenly faced with a marriage proposal from a well-off family based in Delhi or Mumbai, can barely resist the temptation of seeing their daughter live a good life. They never even realize that their daughters are just sexual brides since the marriage has no documents or legal sanctity.”

This new form of trafficking came to light when Kant and his team members came to know about several cases of ?minor wives’ while rescuing young girls in the state. “We were always under the impression that such incidents happened only in Hyderabad, where the Arabs came to marry young girls,” he says. But these incidents were an eye-opener not only for Kant, but also the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). “At times, these girls even end up in brothels,” Kant adds.

We could not even dream of a concept called false marriages,” says Ahmad Salman, the Project Coordinator of UNDP’s Trafficking and HIV AIDS Programme. “And things are only getting worse with the falling sex ratio.”

Kant says finding out the transit and destination points for such cases of trafficking was not difficult. “Etah and Badayun in western UP were the expected points since the number of females in these regions is really low,” he says, “but Etawah, Jalaon, Hardoi and Jhansi came as a shock. Here, the girls were being trafficked from Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Bangladesh, not to forget the smaller areas of UP too.

It would take some time before people realise more about this form (of trafficking), as it not only leads to physical abuse, but also shatters the dreams of these girls.”

See online : The Indian Express

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