WIVES FOR RENT! THE EVILS OF DHADICHA PRATHA IN INDIA
Author: Adv. Siddhi Gokuldas Naik, II year of LL.M. (Specializing in Criminal Law) from V.M.Salgaocar College of Law, Miramar, Panaji, Goa
“Atrocities against women is not cultural, it is criminal!”
While India is on its way towards the empowerment of women, we can still quote innumerable instances of how brutally women are treated in some parts of our nation even after years of achieving independence.
There are illogical practices followed in India which immediately signifies, how women have been harassed sexually and reduced to mere inanimate objects of trade. One such disgusting ritual followed in one of the villages of Indiais the “Dhadicha Pratha.”
We are very much aware of renting a house, car, room, and many other things. But how many of us are aware of the fact that certain Indian villages have a custom of renting a woman as a wife? Difficult to believe? After reading the present article, one will believe that everything pathetic is possible in a patriarchal society.
Bride markets are very popular in countries like Bulgaria, Burma, Pakistan, and North Korea. It is shocking to know that India has also joined the club. India’s Shivpuri district situated in the state of Madhya Pradesh is lately making headlines for renting girls to become wives of men based on the criteria of virginity and aesthetics.
WHAT IS THE DHADICHA PRATHA ALL ABOUT?
The evil practice of renting wives has been in existence for decades in the Shivpuri village of Madhya Pradesh. This custom is known as Dadhicha. Every year a market is set up in the village where it is customary for families to rent their daughters or wives. Men participate in the market and choose women for themselves.
It is surprising to know that parents/ guardians voluntarily rent their girls to men. It is also the case where married husband rent their wives to other men. The wives of the husbands are given on lease to wealthy businessmen who do not have a wife or a partner. The deal is signed on a stamp paper of an amount as meager as Rupees ten, fifty, or hundred. Every year thousands of deals are finalized.
The rising issue of female infanticide has significantly led to the reduction in the female sex ratio in India. This hasconsequently affected the men specifically in regions of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh as they are unable to get brides for themselves. Thus, they resort to buying or renting women from different parts of the country particularly from the impoverished regions of Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Assam, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, and Bihar to carry forward the lineage of their family. The main reason why families agree to rent or sell their girls is finance and also as a means to escape paying hefty dowries. The deals are usually carried through a broker who keeps the bigger share of the amount for himself and leaves the smaller ones for the family.
HOW ARE THE GIRLS PRICED?
In Dhadicha it is usually the virgin girls from the age group of 8 to 15 years who are preferred more over married women. The bride is priced as per the hour/day/week/month/year, i.e the period for which the man wants her to be his wife.Once the deal ends the contract is renewedby the same man or a new contract is made with other man and the bride isrented to a new person.
Generally, the deal is locked for Rs. 15,000/- to 25,000/- per bride. The younger the bride, the higher theprice is proposed by the family. Sometimes the price is so excessive that it goes up to 2 lakhs if the bride is beautiful, physically attractive, and a virgin. Non-Virgin girls are priced for Rupees 10,000/- to 15,000/- based on their age, skin color, and the number of men they have slept with before as a part of their contractual marriages.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE FOR THE GIRL TO BE THE BRIDE?
The most horrific part of Dadicha is that girls who are rented are as young as 6 years and there is no upper age limit. Minor girls are sexually exploited even before they hit puberty. It is disgusting to know that the parents often give these girls a specific drug to expand their breasts and body muscles to look aesthetically pleasing, like a woman to convey a high price.
Once they are rented, they are married off for a specific period. These brides are often referred to as “Paro” or “Molki” which means the one who has a price. Every day these young girls are raped not just by their husbands but by multiple men in the family itself. Any male in the family can sleep with them to satisfy their sexual pleasures. In some households even the father-in-law is allowed to have sexual intercourse with the girl. The justification for this is that they have bought the girl for the same. The status of the girl is reduced to nothing more than a sex toy used to have fun by men and as an income-generating machine for the parents. Hence, the parents in this village prefer having more daughters which means more and more money in the family.
Once the contract is over it is either renewed by the same man or she is sent back to her family where she is priced again and rented to new customers. The cycle continues. These girls go through a lot of exploitation, physical, mental, as well as sexual, yet there is no one they can share their pain with. Many contact deadly diseases like HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis B, etc.
STORIES OF DISGUST ERUPTING PAIN
There is a long list of women who have gone through this kind of torture. Many stay silent while some have voiced themselvesout:
1. “I was too naïve to understand what was going on until I realized that I was married off to a man four times older than me!” says Reshma who was rentedby her parents when she was only eight years old. She was priced for Rupees Sixty Thousand per year. The condition laid by her parents was that the husband could have sexual relations with her only after she attained puberty (only once she starts menstruating). However, she was raped on the very first night of her marriage not only by her husband but also by her brother-in-law. This continued for a year. Later, she was sent to her family to be rented again to another man.Fortunately, years after being rented to nine different customers, she somehow managed to reach out to a non-governmental organization where she was made to understand that whatever happened with her was not at all her mistake. She was later sent to the child welfare home.
2. “While I tried to escape that night, he suddenly grabbed me and attacked me with a knife!” recalls Mahira who was bought as a bride by a man in Haryana for Rs. 80,000/- when she was only fourteen years old.
3. “I wanted to run away on the very first night of my wedding. I cried for help but nobody came!” says Saiba who was rented by her brother to a widower. She was tortured every night to sleep with multiple men.
4. “He was an old man with a beard. How could I like him? I would have not even tied him rakhi. He used to hit me with his shoes!” tells Sarah recalling how she was tricked by her parents and married off to a fifty years old man while she was only fourteen.
5. “Never in my worst nightmare did I imagine my life would be like this!” says Kammo who was trafficked from West Bengal and eventually sold to a man for marriage.
6. “I would never let this happen to my daughter!” says Shabana who was sold by her parents for a meager amount of Rs.15,000/-to multiple men of the same family.
7. In 2017, a man from Indore sold his wife for an amount of Rs. 30,000/-. The deal was made when the couple went to attend a wedding. The woman was raped multiple times by multiple men. She somehow managed to escape and a case was registered against the original husband who was later on arrested.
SO ARE THERE ANY ACTIONS TAKEN AGAINST THIS PRACTICE?
This menace has been in existence for decades but has come to light lately. There is a small amount of research done on the same. Therefore, the media coverage is also very negligible. Also, no one comes forward to file a complaint to the police. The police also show disinterest to look into such matters.
Acouple of non-governmental organizations have taken note of it and are trying their level best to bring the issue into the limelight. They are working towards making people aware of the fact that buying and selling women is a crime. However, people from the village often argue saying that it is a part of their custom and a huge source of income for them.
There are laws against bride trafficking in India. The Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, the Bonded Labour Abolition Act, the Child Labour Prohibition Act, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protectionof Children) Act, and the Indian Penal Code penalize trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. However, research has revealed that there are several loopholes in how the law looks at trafficking and slavery. This makes it even more difficult to understand and recognize it.
The Indian Constitution prohibits all forms of trafficking, forced begging, and bonded labor. However, the present situation is worst than one could ever imagine. Bride trafficking is openly happening in the country under the guise of mindless customs and rituals. It is outrageous that parents themselves have no feelings of compassion and mercy for their daughters. Therefore, stringent laws seem to be the best option. It is high time the state takes note of the same and implements stricter laws and makes people aware of how criminal it is in nature.
One must never forget that“There is one universal truth applicable to all the countries across the world. Crime against women is:
Never Acceptable, Never Excusable, and Never Tolerable!”