Bimla (name changed) came from Himachal to Haryana as a bride 10 years ago, when she was 16. At that time, her husband Naresh (name changed) was 37. She looked like other women, but the crisis in her life made her different from the others.
She had come as a bride – but again, not like other women. Her husband had purchased her for ₹50,000. Now, she has three children – one daughter and two sons. She said that she can’t go anywhere alone, not even to her next door neighbours. A family member is always with her whenever she goes somewhere. She is under the surveillance of her in-laws’ family all the time.
She also said that she visits her home along with her husband only once a year. But her in-laws do not allow her children to tag along. According to her, the in-laws fear that if they send the children with her, they may refuse to come back. She said that her in-laws do not trust her, and that is why she is under watch all the time. Despite being a family member, they see her as a commodity.
She also said that her in-laws have always realised that she had been purchased by them and therefore, she didn’t have any right. Every time, the family blamed her for the fact that instead of getting dowry, they had to spend money on her. Bimla also alleges that the family treats her ill, when anyone from her home comes to visit. Furthermore, she also said that her brother–in-law harbours bad intentions towards her – and she can’t complain about this to anyone, even to her husband.
According to her in-laws, they purchase brides from other states to carry the family’s name and to handle domestic duties. So, to them, this isn’t a bad thing. They also believe that for such brides, Haryana is like a heaven – because in their home state, there are problems of clothing, house and food. They think that caste isn’t matter of concern case while buying brides. But if anyone from the wife’s side visits the in-laws, the groom will feel very ashamed if asked about their caste.
Naresh added that he still doesn’t trust his wife and is afraid that his wife can run away from home. That is why surveillance is necessary, in his opinion. According to him, the local dialect is also a problem for women like his wife. He also blames his wife for the ‘deterioration’ in his generation. Naresh has a brother for whom they are also trying to purchase a bride. He thinks that money has the power to purchase lots of brides at very low costs.
Bimla’s story is not a singular one in Hayana. There are thousands of such stories in the state. Bride-buying is a practice that’s been in Haryana over the past two decades. People in Haryana use two derogatory words for bride – ‘molki’ and ‘paro’. ‘Molki’ means a ‘bride by prize’, while ‘paro’ denotes a ‘bride from another state’.
Such brides generally come from states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh (UP), Jharkhand and Himachal pradesh. Haryana is an important site for bride-buying, because of the state’s low sex ratio. According to the 2011 census, Haryana’s sex ratio is 877, while child sex ratio (0-6 years) is 830. This often leads to men not being able to find wives. So, men are now buying, sharing, selling and re-selling brides here.
The society too believes that it’s cheaper to buy a bride than to raise a daughter. During a community mobilisation programme, a community realised the problem of declining sex ratio, especially when it comes to marriage and bride-buying. However, they weren’t ready to accept that sex detection and selection happens in their community.
In an era where women have the right to choose a suitable groom for themselves, there are those who forcefully purchase, sell and resell them. In such cases, women are not treated as human beings but as commodities. This is a gross violation of human rights, and is something akin to slavery. They don’t have the right to free movement and are always under surveillance. Even then, they always face the risk of facing sexually-transmitted diseases like AIDS, especially when they are purchased, sold and resold again and again.
However, this violence against women is only one side of the coin. Some people have also made this a money-making trade. Such people often sell brides and the bride wins the trust of family. After some days, she takes all the expensive items from the home and run away. In fact, during my field work, I came across a lot of such cases.
People from both ends of the spectrum need to urgently take strong action against this issue. A joint action or campaign should be run for addressing the bad effects of bride-buying, so that this money-making trade can be abolished.
There is also a need to focus on improving the sex ratio by implementing the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act forcefully. Asha workers and anganwadi workers should take initiative in cross-checking sex detection and sex selection practices. The youth can also be a game-changer. There is a need to focus on the youth in school and colleges because they will be the next generation of parents. Only collective efforts can change the lives of thousand of Bimlas.
Featured image used for representative purposes only.