Al-Jazeera released a comprehensive and shocking report detailing the experiences of Indian women trafficked and forced into marriages in India-administered Kashmir.
“Nazima was kidnapped frm her home state of West Bengal and transported 1,600km to Kashmir, where she was forced to marry a man 20 yrs her senior who had paid her traffickers $250 for a bride”
Very important and well researched story @rifatmohidin https://t.co/edA0bYSyuL
— Raihana Maqbool (@RaihanaMaqbool) January 17, 2023
The news outlet interviewed several women who have been victims of trafficking and forced marriage. They were promised jobs and a chance to improve their lives, only to be sold as brides. Their names and their children's names were changed to protect their identities.
One of these women was 29-year-old Nazima, kidnapped from her home state of West Bengal and then transferred 1,600 kilometers away to Kashmir, where she was forced to marry a man 20 years older than her, who paid the traffickers $250 for a bride.
Nazima recalled her arduous journey from traveling to Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, after hearing news of an NGO offering women jobs in 2012 to being transported to Kashmir and sold as a bride to an older man there.
After arriving at her destination in Kolkata, Nazima saw many women and a few men in a large glass building. She was given tea and became unable to talk after drinking it. It turns out traffickers used the NGO as a front to lure women and sell them as brides.
Although Nazima initially suffered at the hands of her traffickers and even cried a few weeks after being forced to marry, her husband treated her well and allowed her to visit her family back in West Bengal.
However, Nazima was forced to remain in Kashmir since she was already pregnant with their first child and stayed there even as her husband passed away. She considered returning to West Bengal, but many challenges remain, such as her financial situation and how she would need to raise her three children.
Not all women trafficked to Kashmir and other regions in India shared the same fate, with some women mistreated by their husbands. Arsheeda was one of these women. She was only 13 years old when she was lured by a middle-aged Bengali woman who promised her a job in a factory in Kashmir.
The offer turned out to be false, and Arsheeda was sold as a bride in Kashmir. The agent even threatened her death if she raised her voice. She was forced to marry a laborer from the region nine years her senior.
Now 43 years old, Arsheeda had four children with her husband. Unlike Nazima, Arsheeda was a victim of domestic abuse, where her husband would sometimes hit and taunt her, pointing to a scar on her forehead as proof.
Human trafficking has become a big issue in India. But despite being a huge problem in the country, it is still gravely underreported, as assistant sociology professor Tarushika Sarvesh of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) put it.
More than 1,700 cases of human trafficking have been recorded by the Indian National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in 2020 alone. Experts, however, say it is just the tip of the iceberg. Many individuals and human rights groups address the issue of human trafficking and forced marriages in Kashmir by raising awareness about it.