Authorities have rescued a raped and tortured Jharkhand teenager who was sold to a Haryana family as part of a bride business that’s booming in the northwestern state because of its skewed sex ratio amid rampant female foeticide.
An agent sold 15-year-old Sunita (name changed) for Rs 1 lakh and she was forced to marry a man 30 years older.
Every night for nine months, her husband and father-in-law returned home inebriated, beat her with belts and shoes and sexually abused her, the girl said.
“I woke up each morning with bruises on my body. I begged them to let me go back to my mother, but they just enjoyed my misery,” she added.
The yawning gender gap and entrenched feudalism in states like Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh are fuelling a flourishing trade in women trafficked from the poverty-ridden villages of Jharkhand, West Bengal, Assam and Odisha.
Sunita grew up in a Jamshedpur slum and never went to school. She lost her father early and her mother worked as a domestic help in the Jharkhand city to eke out a living.
She was promised a happy married life in Haryana, but was subjected to torture by her husband on her first day in the state.
“He and his father hit me on my private parts and laughed when I cried in pain. I was raped every day,” said Sunita, who was rescued after a Jamshedpur-based women’s police station contacted the NGO Shakti Vahini in Delhi.
An FIR was lodged on Sunday after Sunita’s sister approached authorities for help, said Priyanka Anand, officer in-charge of the police station.
Sunita’s sister learnt of her plight after paying a visit to Haryana, where the family allegedly also tried to hold her captive, but she managed to escape.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), more than 57% of the 1,423 abduction cases in Jharkhand in 2014 were carried out with the intent to get a woman forcibly married.
“Now, it is the Jharkhand Police’s duty to come here and arrest these animals who treat women like nothing more than pieces of meat,” said Rishi Kant, founder-member of Shakti Vahini. “The agent who made the deal should also be caught.”
Sunita will be produced in front of a child welfare committee in Haryana and will be sent for a medical exam to determine if she was pregnant, he said.
Jharkhand Police, in 2014, arrested at least 10 such agents from rural Khunti and Simdega, two backward-, tribal-dominated districts of the state.
Aradhna Singh, officer in-charge of the anti-human trafficking unit in Khunti said, “Agents from neighbouring Bihar and some northern states have been found a few times in Jharkhand sealing marriage deals with families of minor girls.”
Compared to other trafficking-prone states such as Odisha, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal, the percentage of women abducted for marriage is much higher in Jharkhand, the NCRB has found.