When a Bride-to-Be Is a Bride to Buy

In India, a Shortage of Women Generates Demand for Trafficked Brides

A paro from Bihar in Mewat, Haryana. She is not sure how many times she has been sold, March 14, 2014. Subrata Biswas / Hindustan Times

Nuh, a sleepy, sepia-toned town is a two-hour drive from New Delhi and borders the new-age city of Gurgaon, which sports swanky skyscrapers, luxury residential townships, and gargantuan malls. Nuh, too, is fast transforming from rural to urban: Shopping complexes and car showrooms have sprouted up next to mud huts and maize fields. And yet, that economic growth has not translated into much social change—Nuh is still very backward.

It is in Nuh that I met Shilpa, 30. (Her name has been changed to protect her identity.) She is introduced to me as “molki,” a derogatory term that translates from Hindi as “purchased.” When Shilpa was 16, her parents entrusted her to a relative who promised to arrange her marriage. He turned out to be a broker in the bride trafficking business and secretly sold her for around 7,500 rupees ($120) to a man in Nuh, in Haryana state. There, Shilpa was treated

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