By Zoya Sham:
In India, women are mistreated at every juncture of their lives. Sometimes, the troubles start even before birth. Female feticide and infanticide are practices that have deep roots in modern Indian society, where the girl child is yet to be fully accepted. Sex selective abortions and killing or abandoning female infants have taken place for decades. Now, these practices have come back to haunt the people of Haryana.
Their solution? More atrocities against women.
As children of the previous generation grow up to be of marriageable age in Haryana, there are not enough women to wed the men. This ‘drought’ of brides has given rise to the trend of ‘importing’ women from other states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Kerala, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh etc. They are bought, brought, or trafficked into the state for the sole purpose marrying a Haryanvi man.
According to a study conducted by the Central Statistical Organization, the population of girl child was 15.88 per cent of the total female population of 496.5 million in 2001, which declined to 12.9 per cent of 586.47 million women in 2011. This amounts to a shortfall of around 3 million girls in 10 years. Additionally, the SRS statistical report in 2012 showed the sex ratio in Haryana to be 857 women to a 1000 men, making it the most sex ratio-skewed state in the country and giving rise to the molki phenomenon (‘molki’ literally means ‘one who has a price’).
This bizarre practice of putting a price on a women’s marriageability has become commonplace in Haryana. Trafficking brides from different states has developed into a profitable business. Depending on the age, looks and virginity of a girl, grooms pay anywhere from Rs. 50,000 and Rs. 3,00,000. The molki becomes the property of the man and his family after marriage, who does whatever they deem fit. She is forced to do domestic work and denied basic human rights. In our regressive society, which is strongly opposed to inter-caste marriages, molkis are mistreated and insulted by their in-laws and discriminated against in the communities for belonging to a different caste. They also endure physical and sexual abuse from their husbands.
Furthermore, they undergo a cultural shock in their new environments. Omna, married into Haryana from Kerala tells Hindustan Times, “In our home state, only Muslim women stay behind veil, but, here, it is mandatory for all married women.” It was difficult for her to develop a taste for the northern food and cope up with scorching summers and freezing winters. Understanding the local language and following restrictive social norms adds to her problems. In another interview, Rubina, originally from Assam says, “We belong nowhere. We are treated like animals. If a man has to choose between leaving, a local woman or one from outside, he kicks us out; if a man is in need of money, we are sold.”
As the root of the problem is the dismal attitude towards the girl child, the government has undertaken initiatives to change this mindset. The ‘selfie with daughter’ contest that took place recently in the state and the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao‘ campaign are examples of initiatives to raise awareness on the issue. Ministers are also taking measures to control illegal activities like sex determination procedures. However, methods to prevent the trafficking of young women from becoming ‘purchased brides’ and promoting the welfare of the women that have already been married, must also be employed.