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Preying On Poor & Illiterates

Indian media have reported that men are paying off debts by auctioning teenage and young girls of their families in the western Indian province of Rajasthan. Reports suggest that the auctioned girls are being taken to other Indian provinces and even to foreign countries. One can easily assume what kind of oppression and sexual abuse those girls are facing. They are living in a condition that is reminiscent of the times when slavery used to exist. As expected, this piece of news has upset the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India. Giving importance to the media report, the Commission has demanded a detailed report from the Provincial Government. The NHRC has also directed the Rajasthan Police to conduct a full investigation in the areas mentioned in media reports.

It is hard to believe that girls can be auctioned off in the civilised world; however, no one can dismiss this possibility as an impossibility. There is no dearth of evidence that modern slavery still exists in the South Asian nation. A group of international Human Rights activists has defined modern slavery as a situation in which a person loses control over her/his own life, loses the ability to move freely and make decisions, and loses the right to money earned by her/his labour. According to activists, trafficked women and children, debt-ridden workers, de facto captivity of migrant workers by contractors (or supervisers), child labourers, and the domestic labour of underage brides are fine examples of modern slavery. As per an international index, at least 40 million people live as modern slaves across the globe, and more than half of them are in 10 countries, including India, China, Russia and Iran.

After its Independence (in 1947), India did not accept the concept of slavery. The details of Government initiatives to stop the practice of slavery have been brought to the public domain mainly in the language of anti-trafficking. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), an Indian Government agency responsible for collecting and analysing crime data as defined by the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Special and Local Laws (SLL), has mentioned in its latest report that eight children are trafficked every day in India.

Media reports on the incident, taken place in Rajasthan, make it clear that the slave-like life of Indian girls, especially minor girls, cannot be understood only through the framework of crime. The brutal and ruthless form of patriarchy that unfortunately gets manifested in India does not give any dignity to the individuality of women. It also indiscriminately violates Human Rights. The root of the age-old attitude of considering girls as property of the family lies in patriarchy.

One can find the greatest manifestation of patriarchy in the Indian Marriage System. Majority of the Indian girls are married off by their families, as they hardly have any right to choose their partners. The mentality, which encourages heads of family to marry off girls without their consent, plays an important role in auctioning the teenage girls. Marrying off a girl to a trafficker, or selling her directly, is not considered a crime in rural India. The administration, as well as the Police, also recognises the occupation of others over the bodies and labour of girls. Hence, a heinous crime, like human trafficking, is unstoppable in India. The incident in Rajasthan has proven again that the administration is also a part of the modern slavery. From the Family to the State, girls face such forms of danger everywhere.

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