Prajna Datta Verma, NDTV.COM
Sunday, February 18, 2007 (Mewat, Haryana):
In the Mewat district of Haryana, women are being sold as sex slaves to men and then resold in a bizarre form of currency.
Girls from dirt poor states are lured with the promise of jobs, marriage or money and the selling has been going on for decades.
The girls are resold for profit over and over again to various men.
Often parents hand over these girls for just Rs 1000 to traffickers who travel to remote parts of India to get them, not knowing that the trafficker could be selling them for ten or twenty times that amount.
Women brought from outside are used to settle debts, pay bills or just as gifts.
Way of life
The three villages where this tradition has survived since 1969 are Rehana, Tappkan and Ghasera.
The women are brought from Assam, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa and Bihar and sold to men not considered suitable by women of their own community.
"Women brought into Mewat from outside are called paros," said Maulana, Ghasera village.
Once bought, a paro is an asset that her owner can trade in. He can lend her to other men to settle debts or even sell her.
"Somebody gets a woman but then finds that he does not get along with her. He then sells her off for 5000-10,000," said Maulana, Ghasera Village.
For villagers it is a way of life. Only some like Abid who have lived away for years see the situation differently.
"This is the truth. Women from outside are bought and sold. Men over twenty five find it difficult to get women to marry so these girls are sold to these men for Rs 20,000- 30,000," said Abid Hussein, student.
According to a local NGO for women, the administration does not seem to see anything at all.
"There are approximately 40-50 girls in each village and there are over 500 villages. The women are being brought in since 1969 but the administration is doing nothing. I have seen 70-year-old married to 14-year-olds after being bought. The girls are being sold and resold not once or twice but several times," said Rishi Kant, NGO, Shakti Vahini.
Conspiracy of silence
Some paros even seem to have made their peace with the situation. Some have even settled down with one of the men. The past is forgiven but not entirely forgotten.
"I desperately want to go home. I want to meet my brothers and sisters. My parents are dead," said Anwari Begum, Tapkan village.
Another woman agrees to tell her story in a language she still hasn't forgotten.
"I face great difficulties here. I am often beaten. He has more wives, one of them is dead but he has more. The man who brought me here took Rs 3000 but he did not give the money to my parents. He took the money and disappeared," said Meena, Ghasera Village.
It's a conspiracy of silence that seems to suit everyone.
"We are holding one to one with the sarpanchs. There is no such complaint and we are not going to protect anybody," said C R Rana, District Collector, Mewat.
These women are often at the mercy of those who bring them miles and miles away from home. While most struggle to survive, others carry on with the lives that they get.
But there are others who have disappeared without a trace.