Thousands of young girls are dissapearing in India every year. Where are they going?
Many young girls are sold by their families for prostitution, domestic help
As the sexual assault of women in India has gained impetus with the infamous New Delhi bus assault garnering headlines, another shameful aspect of the exploitation of young women in this nation has been thrust into the spotlight: The kidnapping of teenage girls for prostitution or forced domestic work.
In Haryana, parents don't want girls -- so they kill their own children. It has gone on so long it has become tradition, due to dowry.
The United Nation's children's agency UNICEF describes it as a problem of "genocide proportions." Fifty million women are missing in India because of female feticide and infanticide, or the killing of baby girls.
"We don't have enough girls here," a woman who bought a teenager from her family declares. "There are many girls from Bengal here. I paid money for her!"
While there are no official statistics as to how many girls are sold into marriage in the northern states of India, activists believe the number is on the rise. There is a broad demand for women in the relatively wealthy north. Since poverty is rampant throughout most of India, many desperate families turn to selling their female offspring to wealthy homes.
"Every house in northern India is feeling the pressure, in every house there are young men who cannot find women and who are frustrated," social activist Rishi Kant says.
According to the latest official data, almost 35,000 children were reported missing in India in 2011 - and over 11,000 of them were from West Bengal. Police estimate that only about 30 percent of cases are actually reported.
Some families are unaware that their female children are being sold into servitude. One local farm worker, left without income, welcomed an offer from a neighbor for his 16-year-old daughter a job in Delhi.
"She went on a train. She told me 'Father, don't worry about me, I will come back with enough money so that you can marry me." They never heard from her again.
In Haryana, parents don't want girls -- so they kill their own children. It has gone on so long it has become tradition, due to dowry. Haryana is a rich state with a lot of land and good agriculture. Potential dowries are large because of the plentitude of land.
Boys work on the farm and inherit the farm. But if it's given to a girl, it is for her family too.
In contrast, in Kerala, they don't think that women are a burden. The girl child is educated and will work.
Some families get ultrasounds done and they sometimes kill the child. When the government issues an ultrasound machine, they try to follow up to see what happens. There are many people who practice feticide.
"I don't go to the source areas, but I have men working for me. We tell parents that we will get them jobs in Delhi, and then we transport them to placement agencies. What happens to them after that is not my concern," one man says, who makes around $1,000 from each girl. Local politicians and police, he says, are crucial to his operation.
"Police are well aware of what we do. I have to tell police when I am transporting a girl and I bribe police in every state - in Calcutta, in Delhi, in Haryana.
"I have had troubles with authorities but I am not afraid - if I go to jail I now have enough money to bribe my way out."
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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