The first time Muklesha was sold, she was just 12 years old. Her buyer was a man in his 70s.
Marriage and a baby quickly followed. But, three years later, the man died and Muklesha was again put up for sale.
This time, her buyer was a horrific abuser.
“He didn’t feed me. He’d take me to the fields and stuff my mouth with mud and then beat me,” she says.
A dangerous demand for brides
In India, sex-selective abortions and female infanticide, due to a preference for male babies, has created one of the most severe gender imbalances in the world.
Now, the shortage of women is generating a dangerous demand for brides among men desperate to marry, especially in states like Haryana, which has one of the country’s worst gender ratios.
Traffickers are stepping in to meet this demand, kidnapping women from other states and selling them to men in Haryana.
|I couldn’t run away or bring my life to an end. There was nobody whom I could ask for help.|
A survey of 10,000 households in this northern state found more than 9,000 married women had come from other states.
Al Jazeera discovered that some women living in villages in Haryana have been sold as many as three times.
The villagers call them “Paros”, a derogatory term implying they’ve been purchased.
Sanjida was trafficked to Haryana when she was just 10 years old. She says an older girl from a village near her family’s home in the north-eastern state of Assam drugged and kidnapped her.
“I was made to do field work, cut grass, feed cows, do all the work. I cried for a year. I was in captivity for four years,” she says.
She says she was then sold into marriage.
“I couldn’t run away or bring my life to an end. There was nobody whom I could ask for help,” she says.
But Sanjida was luckier than most other Indian women sold into marriage. She says her husband has always treated her well. Sanjida now works for an NGO helping other women.
“All people in Haryana are disrespectful towards women like us. Everybody says we have no self-respect … and that we are sold like cows and goats. We feel very bad when we hear all this because we are human beings and we belong to India, just like them,” she says.
Sanjida is now helping Muklesha, the girl first sold when she was 12, after she was rescued from her abusive husband.