BUDGAM, INDIA, Sep 13 (IPS) – It has been more than a decade since Rafiqa (not her real name), 32, was sold to a villager after being lured by the promise that she would be employed in the cottage industry of Kashmir under Indian administration.
But instead of finding a job, she was sold to a Kashmiri man in central Kashmir’s Budgam district for a paltry sum of 50,000 Indian rupees (US$605). Before traffickers lured her, Rafiqa lived with her parents and three siblings in a poor Muslim family in West Bengal, a state in eastern India.
From Rohingya refugees – there are around 40,000 in India – to women living in other states in the country, such as West Bengal and Assam, women are being trafficked and sold as wives to men who have difficulty finding wives within their communities. . These brides and grooms often include elderly, physically disabled men with mental health issues.
Rafiqa’s husband, who drives a horse cart for a living and lives in a one-room wooden shed, had to sell the only cow he owned to pay the sum to human traffickers.
She has now accepted “what I was destined to face in my life.” Accepting reality, she said, was the only option left to her.
“I could have either tried to escape or taken an extreme measure, but I decided to apply myself positively to make some sort of living out of what I ended up with,” Rafiqa told IPS then that she was sitting at the foot of the small wooden staircase of the building. his home. “My husband’s simplicity and kindness also helped make this decision, even though I didn’t like his appearance.”
“Now I have three children to live for,” Rafiqa said. “I miss my parents and my brothers and sisters. But it is very difficult to visit them. Even if I convince my husband, we will not be able to afford to visit them because it takes a lot of money to pay for the trip,” she added, saying her husband barely provides two meals for the family.
Rafiqa is not the only woman trafficked in this village. More than a dozen women have married under similar circumstances. Elsewhere in the region, hundreds of other women in the Indian states of West Bengal and Assam are married to divorced and physically disabled men.
When 23-year-old Zarina (name changed), from a poor family in West Bengal, fell into the trap of a human trafficker, she had no idea she would end up marrying a man she she had never seen and was almost ready to marry. double his age. Zarina also fell for the false promise that a job in a carpet manufacturing factory in north Kashmir’s Patan area would be reserved for her. But, to his surprise, she was sold into marriage.
“Now how will my situation change after talking to you if it hasn’t changed in the last five years?” This is where I have to be all my life,” an annoyed Zarina told IPS, and then refused to give further details.
Some women who encounter human traffickers are much unluckier. In a village in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, a young Rohingya woman was sold to a family by traffickers for her son suffering from mental health problems after being trafficked from a makeshift camp in Rohingya refugees in the neighboring province of Jammu.
“We were surprised when we found out that the family had a bride for their son who we knew was not mentally healthy since childhood,” said a neighbor of the family. “We heard her screaming when her husband beat her almost every day. But fortunately for her, the young Rohingya woman managed to escape after a few months.
There are no precise official figures on brides sold, but some estimates indicate that thousands of girls and women are sold each year. The media sometimes report the arrest of human traffickers, but these reports are not that common.
On July 26, Indian Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Kumar Mishra told the Indian Parliament that 1,061,648 women above the age of 18 and 251,430 girls below the age of 18 had gone missing between 2019 and 2021 in different states of the country.
Mishra, however, said that most of the victims had been accounted for and added that the Indian government had taken several initiatives for the safety of women.
In April last year, India’s National Commission for Women launched an Anti-Human Trafficking Cell “to improve effectiveness in combating cases of human trafficking, raise awareness among women and girls, build capacity and train anti-trafficking units, and increase the responsiveness of law enforcement agencies.”
In its 2023 Trafficking in Persons Report, the US Department of State identifies India as a Tier 2 country.
“The Indian government does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but is making considerable efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period, taking into account the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore, India remained at Tier 2,” the report said.
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© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service