Patriarchy is a demon that often works in insidious ways, but in many parts of the world it is still a blatant, brutally enforced way of life. In Haryana, Punjab, and Western UP, trafficking of brides is a booming business fuelled by skewed sex ratios (830 women for every 1000 men) arising out of rampant female foeticide. Known derogatorily as Paros or Molkis, the trafficked women, often coming from poor villages in Assam, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Odisha, are treated literally as property – sold and resold between various men, forced into bonded labour and prostitution, and physically and sexually abused.
The following photos are taken from a report by Hindustan Times in 2014. While efforts have been made since then to rescue trafficked women as well as systematically halt trafficking, the larger reality seems to be the same.These photos provide a haunting glimpse into the lives of these women, for whom freedom is but a word.