Posts Tagged ‘marriage’


Paloma Sharma is a  student, social activist and active blogger at Going Bananas. At a tender age of 18, she is more aware about social issues than most people. Following is an article on bride trafficking in India, a little known, less talked about topic.

 

According to the nation-wide census held in 2011, there are 940 females for every 1000 males in India. While the figures at a national level are disturbing, the State of Rajasthan accounts for an even lower sex ratio of 926 females for every 1000 males. The difference between 926 and 1000 seems small at first. However, Rajasthan has a population of 68,621,012 out of which 35,620,086 persons are male and 33,000,926 are female. With the natural human sex ratio being approximately 1:1, it is found that 2,619,160 females are ‘missing’ from the population of Rajasthan.

In 2012 Rajasthan had 308 cases filed under the Pre-Conception, Pre-Natal and Diagnostics Techniques (PCPNDT) Act 1994 against sex-selection abortion, which was the highest in the country. However, according to unofficial estimates, 2,500 baby girls fall prey to female foeticide or infanticide every single day in Rajasthan. Though the grand old patriarchs of clans practicing femicide continue to pride themselves over producing only sons, their systematic, mass-scale  and merciless murders of their daughters are not only gross violations of a human being’s basic human right to life but they also present a predicament to the position of their precious sons in society. In a culture where marriage is seen as a universal and inevitable eventuality, the genocide of females leaves a significant number of men without partners; and so, the buying and selling of women as ‘brides’ prospers.

Bride trafficking is forced sale, purchase and resale of girls and women in the name of marriage. Girls and women are kidnapped or lured into bride trafficking and sold, raped and/or married off without their consent only to end up as a slaves and bonded labourers at the mercy of the men and their families, who have ‘bought’ them.

Bride trafficking is also commonly called bride buying – a strange term because despite their sale, these ‘brides’ are no commodities. They are real, living females who are victims of trafficking. They are just as human as any of us. How can anyone truly buy another living being?

According to Global Voices approximately 90% of the 200,000 humans trafficked in India every year are victims of inter-state trafficking and are sold within the country. The states of Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan are major destinations of trafficked ‘brides’. It is hardly surprising that these states also account for the most skewed sex ratios in the country. Although the buying and selling of brides was a well documented historic practice in undivided India, lives of today’s trafficked girls and women are cloaked in secrecy because neither do they have a voice, nor do they have the social-mobility or resources to acquire one and raise it.

According to a 6 year long analysis conducted by Empower People, 23% of girls from West Bengal are trafficked. Bihar is next at 17% followed by Assam (13%), Andhra Pradesh (11%), Orissa (8%) and Kerala (6%).

Trafficked brides are known as Paro (outsider), Molki (one who as been bought) or Jugaad (adjustment). Majority of trafficked brides belong to scheduled castes, scheduled tribes or lower economic classes. Some of them are kidnapped, some tricked and some sold into flesh trade by their own parents or other trusted family members/neighbors.

Another way of selling women has recently come to light due to the ‘Baby Falak case’. Pimps and traffickers pose as grooms, marry women with less or no dowries and then sell them off to other men. Isolated from their natal communities, in an alien land with no rights of their own, these cross-state trafficked brides are easy for their ‘grooms’ and in-laws to control and exploit.

Sold into a deeply oppressive patriarchal society where defiance of the caste and gender hierarchy is met only with bloodshed and death, these trafficked brides are seen as a ‘dishonour’ to the family because their origins, (i.e., castes) are not known. According to ‘Tied in a Knot — cross-region marriages in Haryana and Rajasthan, Implications for Gender Rights and Gender Relations,’ a study funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy, trafficked brides are isolated and humiliated both publicly and privately due to their castes and duskier complexions. Children born to these mothers are not accepted in the community and are taunted by peers. In what seems like an unending cycle, boys born out of such unions are likely to buy brides just as their fathers did before them. The fate of girl children, if any, remains unknown.

Although a trafficked bride is technically married to only one man in the family, the man’s brothers or other male relatives see her as a property to be shared. The Eastern Post reports that 70% of trafficked brides are gang-raped repeatedly on a regular basis by their husbands and other male members of the family. Sexual promiscuity among boys and men goes unchecked and is almost celebrated in such social environments where using protection is not the norm. Hence, trafficked brides who are sexually abused by their husbands or other men are at a higher risk of contracting HIV, as are any children born to them.

Trafficked brides are used as agricultural and domestic slaves by day and sex slaves by night. Their sole purposes seem to be that of managing the household, working in the fields and bearing a male heir for the family. If they fail in any of these tasks and their ‘owners’ are dissatisfied with them, they are resold; if they cannot be resold, they are kicked out of the house and forced into prostitution.

According to The Eastern Post 56% of trafficked brides have been sold twice, 21% have been sold thrice and 6% of them have been sold four or more times. However, according to Global Voices, the re-selling rate on an average is as high as 4 to 10 times for every trafficked bride and 83% of girls have been sold more than twice. Also, in 89% of the cases, the trafficked bride is the second, third, fourth etc. wife of her buyer. It is clear from these statistics that purchasing women in the name of marriage is not a traditional practice of lower-class communities (although they are starting to practice it.)

Bride trafficking is more prevalent in rich, land-owning communities. As seen in the census of 2011, the top 20% of the population have the worst sex ratio. Wealthy families see baby girls (and the dowries that go with them) as a threat to their wealth. This is why girl children are either eliminated as foetuses or as infants and the absence of eligible girls is made up for by purchasing trafficked brides. It is an unending cycle that neither society nor the government seems to be interested in breaking.

On the legal front too, hope for justice seems almost non-existent for trafficked brides. The ITPA (Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act) deals especially with prostitution but does not cover all forms of trafficking. The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 does not cover this form of trafficking and slavery either. More over, sexual violence faced by trafficked brides amounts to marital rape which, despite the Justice Verma Committee’s suggestions and vehement protests by various women’s rights organizations, is not a criminal act in India. Although IPC sec. 366 seems like an effective way to tackle this mass abuse and rape of women and girls, it does not have a provision for rehabilitating victims of trafficking. Despite all this, the ultimate barrier is that trafficked brides are either illiterate or only slightly educated and have little to no knowledge of their own rights.

Trafficked brides are often child brides or very young women who are sold to older men. A majority of trafficked brides are between the ages of 13-23 years. A trafficked bride can be bought for as little as Rs. 1,200. They are confined to the four walls of the houses of the men who have bought them and have almost no social interaction with anyone else, even in their own homes. Neighbours often don’t know who the bride is, where she has come from or if she even exists. The state of anonymity that these women live in is not only disturbing but a cause for great concern.

If we do not know how many women are there, how will we know how many women are missing?

In the Mewat region alone, there are 20,000 cross-border brides. But that number is an unofficial estimate, just the tip of the ice berg and the ship that India society is floating on seems to be heading straight for it.

While urban citizens in general seem to be blissfully ignorant of the trafficking and slavery of women in the name of marriage, the government chooses to turn a blind eye. It would dare not defy the Samaj Panchayats and Khap Panchayats who, while worried about the ‘purity’ of their bloodlines, see trafficked brides as a necessity because for them anything is better than having a daughter.

It is these very Panchayats who hold the fate of politicians in their hands. Every time election comes around, these Panchayats declare the name of a candidate and the entire community votes for him/her. For the government, it would be disastrous to act against bride trafficking and lose a vote bank. After all, why is it important to uphold the human rights and dignity of these nameless, faceless women? Who are they? Do they comprise a vote bank?

No, they don’t.

A vote bank seems to be the only solution to this problem. If a vote bank is what it takes for the authorities to turn a blind eye to bride trafficking and simply shrug and say that marriage is a familial issue when confronted with realities, then a vote bank should be organized. Right-minded citizens who know their rights and care about the rights of others must come together and put gender equality and women’s rights on the agenda for 2014.

Bride trafficking is not just a woman rights issue but a human rights issue. Bride trafficking is not marriage, It is a lethal combination of the darkest forms of domestic slavery, bonded labour and sexual slavery. Bride trafficking is the ultimate dehumanization of a woman; hidden under colourful veils and disgusting excuses of men’s needs, a community’s honour and a family’s necessity. It is an inhumane custom of believing that someone can put a price on another human being’s life. This custom exists because we, as a society, allow it to. But we don’t have to let this go on anymore. Unlike the women who are stripped of their humanity and sold into a sick perversion of marriage, we do have a voice.

But the question remains: are we brave enough to raise it?

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Guest post by Neha on domestic violence, the law, its application and how to defend yourself if falsely accused.
DISCLAIMER: THIS POST SPEAKS ABOUT ONE OF THE MOST SENSITIVE TOPICS – DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. I INTEND TO COVER ALL THE IMPORTANT ASPECTS RELATED TO THIS TOPIC WHICH INCLUDE LEGAL ASPECTS, JUDICIAL ASPECTS, ADMINISTRATIVE ASPECTS AND FACTS. THE VIEWS POSTED HERE ARE PURELY MINE. I REQUEST YOU ALL NOT TO GENERALIZE THEM AND ACT PURELY BASED ON THEM.
Part – 1. The Law

So many bloggers on this blogosphere have written something related to women suffering from physical abuse by her husband, so many newspapers and news channels report various news about dowry death, or torturing a woman to an extent that she decides to end her life rather than living in such a terrible state. Such cases which catch the public eye through the medium of media are very few. The numbers in the limelight are not even 10% close to what is actually reaching the stage of a police complaint against the accuse (which is a husband always, that is what I have seen at least). Additionally, there are very few people (again, usually women) who actually file a complaint against the party who has been accused of physical abuse, mental torture and/or dowry demand. Most of them prefer to keep quiet about this due to various reasons like family and society pressure, no or minimum financial support, future of kid/s , inefficiency of legal system and so on and so forth.

My intention for writing this post is not to give anybody a negative picture of either the judicial system or the administrative system. I simply want to put forward the picture that I have seen so far in my practice. I have never been directly involved in these matters – in a lawyer’s term, we call it family court practice – but, I have referred to, studied and come across many such cases that fall within the purview of domestic violence.

Earlier, there was only one section – Section 498-A of Indian Penal Code (popularly known as IPC) which protected a woman who had become a victim of domestic violence by her husband or his relative/s. But in the year 2005, a new law – The Domestic Violence Act, 2005 was enacted that specified the smallest of detail that can cause torture and/or physical as well as mental harassment to a woman.

What does the Law say?

Our Judicial system considers the harassment of the women as a criminal offence. Section 498A of IPC says that: S/498-A – Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine. Explanation-For the purpose of this section, “cruelty” means:

(a) Any willful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health whether mental or physical) of the woman; or

(b) Harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her meet such demand.

Definition of domestic violence.- For the purposes of this Act, any act, omission or commission or conduct of the respondent shall constitute domestic violence in case it –

(a) harms or injures or endangers the health, safety, life, limb or well-being, whether mental or physical, of the aggrieved person or tends to do so and includes causing physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional abuse and economic abuse; or

(b) harasses, harms, injures or endangers the aggrieved person with a view to coerce her or any other person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any dowry or other property or valuable security; or

(c) has the effect of threatening the aggrieved person or any person related to her by any conduct mentioned in clause (a) or clause (b); or

(d) otherwise injures or causes harm, whether physical or mental, to the aggrieved person. Explanation I.-For the purposes of this section,-

(i) “physical abuse” means any act or conduct which is of such a nature as to cause bodily pain, harm, or danger to life, limb, or health or impair the health or development of the aggrieved person and includes assault, criminal intimidation and criminal force;

(ii) “sexual abuse” includes any conduct of a sexual nature that abuses, humiliates, degrades or otherwise violates the dignity of woman;

(iii) “verbal and emotional abuse” includes-

(a) insults, ridicule, humiliation, name calling and insults or ridicule specially with regard to not having a child or a male child; and

(b) repeated threats to cause physical pain to any person in whom the aggrieved person is interested.

(iv) “economic abuse” includes-

(a) deprivation of all or any economic or financial resources to which the aggrieved person is entitled under any law or custom whether payable under an order of a court or otherwise or which the aggrieved person requires out of necessity including, but not limited to, household necessities for the aggrieved person and her children, if any, stridhan, property, jointly or separately owned by the aggrieved person, payment of rental related to the shared household and maintenance;

(b) disposal of household effects, any alienation of assets whether movable or immovable, valuables, shares, securities, bonds and the like or other property in which the aggrieved person has an interest or is entitled to use by virtue of the domestic relationship or which may be reasonably required by the aggrieved person or her children or her stridhan or any other property jointly or separately held by the aggrieved person; and

(c) prohibition or restriction to continued access to resources or facilities which the aggrieved person is entitled to use or enjoy by virtue of the domestic relationship including access to the shared household.

Explanation: II.-For the purpose of determining whether any act, omission, commission or conduct of the respondent constitutes “domestic violence” under this section, the overall facts and circumstances of the case shall be taken into consideration.

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Part 2. Applicability of the Law – The Process 

1. The procedure for filing the complaint against the accused is that the victim can go to the police station nearby and file the complaint.

2. This offense is a non-bailable offense. To get the bail, the accused has to be presented in the court in front of the judge.

3. This offense is a non-compoundable offense. That means the complaint once filed cannot be withdrawn by the complainant or her relatives.

4. It is a cognizable offense. That means the complaint has be registered and investigated before making any arrests.

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The first part of this post spoke about the legal aspects of the Section 498 – A and Domestic Violence Act. My intentions for this post are not only to give information about how law works and protects you, but to give you a general guideline on how few precautionary measures can help you to protect your and your family’s interest when any kind of a case is filed.

Applicability of the Law – The Practice 

In case of complaint filed under Section 498-A and Domestic Violence Act, the usual practice that has been followed is:

1. Whether to lodge the complaint or not, it depends on which party is stronger – the accused or the complainant.

2. Even though it is a cognizable offense, in most of the cases the arrests are made immediately after the complaint is lodged. There is no investigation made before arresting the accused party/ies.

3. Stronger the lawyer, stronger the case. Here I am not talking about a knowledgeable lawyer, but i am talking about influential lawyer. It is easy to know the law. A fresh graduate fighting his/her first case can also help you out in these matters, but when there is a question of getting a bail at the earliest, or making sure that the case gets sorted out as a settlement between two parties, you need a good and influential lawyer. That time it does not matter whether you are right or wrong. All that matters is who is your lawyer.

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If you are falsely charged with a case on domestic violence, the points mentioned below are the measures you can take when framed or before being framed:

1. Enter into a Prenuptial Agreement (Prenup) before marriage. Prenup is a declaration saying that neither of the parties has demanded or given any dowry. The jewellery, articles, clothes, vehicles etc. all are given to the girl as a gift by her parents and/or relatives. (If any of you require a prenup copy, then please mention that as a separate comment along with your e-mail id. I will send it to you and not publish the comment containing your id.)

2. Get the prenup duly signed and executed by the parties. Further, two witnesses each party must sign the Prenup as well.

3. Make a list of the articles brought in by the girl at the time of the wedding. The girl has a de facto (actual) right on Stridhan. Stridhan means and includes property inherited by the woman from her family or husband’s family; property received by her under a compromise, adverse possession or in lieu of maintenance; property obtained in partition; and property bought using proceeds from stridhan. However, gifts to the husband by the woman or her relatives will not be part of her stridhan.

4. Evidence plays a very crucial role when a complaint is filed. It can convict the innocent and evict the guilty. Thus it is highly recommended to keep all the documents viz. Marriage certificate, bank statements, Prenup, the list of the gifts received at the time of the wedding, wedding pictures, bills etc. Safely, copy them all and get the marriage certificate notarized so that both the parties have the valid copy of the same.

5. When a woman is physically abused, she should go to the doctor immediately, get the treatment and certificate mentioning the specific reason for the injuries from him. Here, it is highly recommended to go to a government hospital for the treatment as the certificate issued by the government hospital has a stronger legal stand. This point can be raised by a man who has been framed wrongfully by a woman when the case comes in the court. It may or may not help, but can be useful.

6. When a physical or verbal abuse is happening, start screaming and alert your neighbours. This can help you to get witnesses when you do not have sufficient evidences to prove your point. Further, it may help to avoid the damage being done further.

7. The moment you get the idea that there may arise some problem regarding any general or a specific issue; consult a lawyer before hand rather than waiting for the problem to take over first. This will help you maintain peace of mind and nerve when in trouble.

8. If possible, install the recording, itemized bills and caller id facilities on your landlines and mobiles.

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Simone de Beauvoir defines marriage as the destiny traditionally offered to women by society and her statement-“It is still true that most women are married, or have been, or plan to be, or suffer from not being”- is relevant today. So the study of woman has to include the analysis of marriage.

According to Beauvoir the economic evolution in woman’s situation is in the process of upsetting the institution of marriage, increasingly it is becoming a union freely entered upon, and the various issues like adultery, divorce etc are now getting equal in the eyes of the law. Marriage has always been a very different thing for the man and for woman, the two sexes are necessary to each other but it has never brought about a condition of reciprocity between them. Woman has always been ‘given’ in marriage by certain males to other males and till a long time contract of marriage was between the father-in-law and the son-in-law, not between husband and wife.

For the woman marriage is her sole means support and the sole justification of her existence. This statement made by Beauvoir may not hold true today in the economic and social context but is still relevant. Ji Sung Kim writes in her blog about cooking and women that

To elaborate, Simone De Beauvoir wrote, “Marriage is the destiny traditionally offered to women by society.” In systems of traditional domesticity, married women worked in the home. Part of their work was cooking food in the manner of their foremothers. Cooking, along with housekeeping, was seen as antagonistic to the modern woman’s freedom to pursue her agency. It wasn’t just consumer culture peddling their fast food; women’s very departure from the home, her physical ‘distanciation’ from the kitchen, required she needed food that could be presented during the hours she was home. Having worked all day out there, the second shift of ‘in here’ work would begin upon her return if cooking meant the vegetables had to be washed and chopped by her hands and the meats had to be drained of blood, braised and then boiled for eight hours. So yes, convenient foods helped. Traditional foods are not antagonistic to women’s pursuit of life, but its foundational support.

Marriage is enjoined upon women for two reasons – first is that she must provide society with children and second is it’s her function to satisfy a male’s sexual needs and to take care of his household. For girls marriage is the only means of integration in the community and that’s why mothers have so eagerly sought to arrange ‘suitable’ marriages for them. Once again Beauvoir points out that the girls is ‘given’ in marriage and the men ‘get’ married , they ‘take’ a wife. She takes his name; she belongs to his religion, his class, his circle; she joins his family, she becomes his half. A woman is doomed to the continuation of the species and the care of home- that is to say immanence. For man marriage is a perfect synthesis of maintenance and progression but not for the woman.

Beauvoir states that even when the woman is emancipated she is led to prefer marriage to a career because of the economic advantages held by men and the promise of an ‘easy’ life. She compares the single woman of France and America that they are both socially incomplete though in America more so. Even if she makes her own living, to attain the whole dignity of a person she has to wear a wedding ring. Maternity in particular is respectable only for a married woman and her child is a severe handicap for her in life.

Today, of course things are better for the unmarried mother but still not much and they face a life full of difficulty and problems. But with social and familial support, and with the government also coming forward things are easier, at the same time this differs widely from one society to another.Beauvoir uses a common example to bring home a very relevant point. Girls when asked about their plans for the future reply that they want to get married but no young man considers marriage his fundamental project.

Well, today the answer of the girls has also changed with at least the majority of the girls aiming for a career and financial independence.Beauvoir says that arranged marriages have been more numerous in France than elsewhere, but maybe we in India can refute this statement. She says that clubs devoted to such matters still flourish and matrimonial notices occupy much space in newspapers. Well, all this holds true of India even today.A girl does not have much choice and if a man is reasonably eligible in such matters such as health and position, she accepts him, love or no love. Though the girl desires marriage, she also fears it. It benefits her more than man but also asks more sacrifices of her. Analyzing further Beauvoir says that marriages are generally not founded on love. The very nature of the institution, the aim of which is to make the economic and sexual union of man and woman serve the interest of society, not assure their personal happiness. The woman especially is not concerned to establish individual relations with a chosen mate but to carry on the feminine functions in their generality. 


Following contribution has been made by Chintan Gupta:

Ever since The Guwahati incident has happened, I have witnessed outrage from each and every one I have interacted with over the internet. More often than not, such an outrage is mere chain reaction to what you read and wish to change if you are ambitious enough. We all feel this strong short-lived urge to break all the boundaries and rebel; however the routine challenges that an Indian citizen has to go through cuts the life of an outrage even shorter. I somehow, do not believe in charity, fixing a neighbour’s running tap for free for instance however I strongly believe one must live on one’s own terms. Alas, most of Indians cannot afford that luxury either! Imagine, if an Indian Man feels suffocated, burdened under unnecessary responsibilities, how does an Indian Woman survive? All the heat that the man fails to tolerate is showered blatantly on the women and more so on the women who dare to live their life on their own terms or challenge men any which way. Atanu Bhuyan, the Editor in Chief of News Live isn’t the only man who is busy assassinating the character of the victim. The saddest part of this whole episode isn’t the fact that a girl was molested by a mob in public, in front of a camera, but, the repercussions that most of the girls would face after this incident.

We as a society are not yet prepared to embrace the reality. We are accustomed to live in denial, denial of women, their respectful existence and understanding the fact that they are indeed equally human. A woman’s self-respect is as paralyzed in this nation as that blind folded lady who imparts judgements on criminals. Post this incident, most of the girls would be forced to undergo character dissection at their safe homes! Whether they consume alcohol, engage in sexual relationships, party, get teased or harassed, it is the womankind who immediately comes under scanner at their own home when such an incident is highlighted. You are warned of your vulnerability and how you are the symbol of family’s reputation. Must you not step out of house like the girl who was molested? Must you not engage in sexual intimacy with a boy who can photograph you topless? Must you not attract unwarranted attention at busy market areas, and above all, must you not act smart and engage in any kind of a rebel to bring shame to the family for you never know, you could be the next! All in all, as long as she is your daughter, you walk the walk of shame, and then you send her to a stranger’s house and your job done! Same story repeats at the stranger’s house too.

Many strong women, would engage in discussions, blog about the complete episode, outlet their rage, mock the men who disrespect women, however within somewhere there is a guilt, a fear and a hope that you wouldn’t be such a victim! EVER. At the end of the day, we are too consumed in blame culture that we would look for faults in the woman’s character. Atanu Bhuyan pointed out in his tweets that the victim had engaged in a fight in the pub, she kept arguing after leaving the premises and he even mentioned that she isn’t a teenager but a married woman. You can understand the subtle hints of insult in his statements. It is what it is. I despised him for such remarks, I was disgusted, I was disgusted even more because I know many would nod when he speaks on TV! Women who are indeed busy discussing this issue and fighting for the victim would accept that they know men who would still blame the victim. We are surrounded by them all, everywhere!

Where does this all leave us? Nowhere. The truth is to each her own. You got to do what you got to do. Be alert and save yourself of all kind of daemons. I say shed all the inhibitions and parade like Pooja Chauhan if need be, but live on your own terms. It is easier said than done but Indian Women got to understand, they are not living just to be judged and told how significant their morals as well as character is. Character, morals are the most farce words I have known in my entire life, all I care for is self-worth, self-respect. As long as I am happy, content in my own skin, can survive, work, earn my own bread, I owe no apology to anyone for how I live my life. So should all the women out there who are questioned about their character each day. Be who you are, live by the truth you seek within yourself. Stop judging other women for their choice of lifestyle, let the paralysis that is limiting us all vanish in desperation of bullies.