INDIA: Women Sold in Rajasthan in Open Markets

July 18, 2007

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

INDIA: Women Sold in Rajasthan in Open Markets

Want to buy a few women? Welcome to Rajasthan, a state in north India, known for its forts, palaces and of course the practise of Sati. Women are sold in open market by their parents in Rajasthan. In Dolpur for example women are sold on market days. The women market is just beside the cattle market.

There is however much difference between the value of cattle and women in Rajasthan. Cattle - bull, cow or buffalo is more valuable than a girl-child in Rajasthan. A girl-child is considered as a burden for the family in Rajasthan. Their marriage itself involves huge expenses as dowry. Dowry is often given in gold ornaments, money, goods and as land. After all these expenses, when the girl, often married to a person whom she has never met before in her life returns home, she becomes none other than a burden. The next option, make benefit out of it. Sell her.

Buyers come from far away places like Mumbai and even from Chennai in the far south. Purchases are made for various purposes. Women and sometimes children are bought and trafficked to various parts of India and often to neighbouring countries, mainly for sex trade. Some are brought to be married later. The buyer marries the commodity and keeps her at home. If there is any manufacturing defect, in the absence of any warrantee she is sold away again for a bargain price.

The buyers who approach the woman feels her in public to make sure that what is under the colourful dress is in fact human flesh and not a piece of plastic. Once the physical examination is over and the quality assured, bargaining begins. One could easily buy a healthy and fairly beautiful woman for an amount as less as 227 USD.

There are various factors that prompt parents in Rajasthan to engage in this blood-chilling act of selling their own children. Of this, the most important is the practise of paying dowry. Though prohibited by law, demanding and paying dowry is a common practise in Rajasthan. The demand for dowry however does not end with the marriage. It is very common for the in-laws to ask for more dowry after the marriage. If the demand is not met, the woman suffers all imaginable forms of inhuman treatment from her husband and other relatives. Many commit suicide and put an end to their misery, while several others return home and stay back with their parents.

A daughter returned from her husband's house and staying separate is considered to be a shame in Rajasthan. Those who can afford to keep things a secret and maintain the daughter, keeps her at home. Those who cannot will sell her.

Women sold are not just separated wives. Minors and girls in teenage are also sold. Some women are sold after being taken into possession by third parties as forfeited securities for a debt. It is easy for any parent, particularly from the farming community in Rajasthan to run into debts due to the harsh weather conditions and often failing crops. The girls are forfeited by the creditor, though they are initially not offered as securities. Those forfeited are later sold.

The practice of selling women in Rajasthan was exposed several times by interventions by concerned right-groups and activists through sting operations and by media intervention. But it continues unabated. Any challenge to this practise among many other illegal and inhuman practices followed in Rajasthan is considered to be challenge to the Hindu culture of the state by the fundamentalist Hindu forces in Rajasthan.

The state government is promoting their version of Hinduism in the state by erecting statues of Hindu gods and goddesses in front of government offices. Recently a statue of Manu, the king infamous for his work 'Manusmriti' was erected in front of the state High Court. Secularism though a virtue valued in the Constitution of India is not a principle for the state government of Rajasthan.

Open and blatant violation of law is visible everywhere in the state. In many cases it is sponsored by the state government which is led by its own definition of Hinduism. The government also sponsors several fundamentalist factions of Hindus in the state in the name of religion and culture. These fundamentalists openly violate law engaging in drug trade from illegal farms near the Uttar Pradesh border to arms sale to local mafias.

The failure in rule of law in any place is depicted in public and private life. If the continuing practise of dowry, is accepted as an essential part of all marriages is private life, the sale of women in market places is the shocking external manifestation of a collapsed rule of law in the state. This collapse has left every possible aspect of public institutions polluted.

The judicial officers, particularly in the lower judiciary, is an example. It is accepted among the lawyers in Rajasthan that most judicial officers in the state accept bribes in several forms. This varies from misusing the local police for procuring a free ticket for a movie for the judge and his family to managing an admission for the children of a newly transferred judge.

As of today Rajasthan remains frozen in time. The four lane highways and preserved and painted forts are just the external pictures portrayed over an internally rotting system. The collapse of rule of law was symbolically completed when the statue of Manu was erected in front of the highest court of the state.

Rajasthan is all set to leap backwards in centuries if the situation continues. Probably that is what the state administration wants, to implement ManuíŽs laws in the state.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

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