Madhya Pradesh: girls for sale to the "best boyfriend," the one who pays the most
by Nirmala Carvalho
By tradition, tribal communities in Rajgarh district sell their daughter's engagement up to four times to the highest bidder. For human rights activist Lenin Raghuvanshi, "Extreme poverty dehumanises the community" with the authorities looking on, silent.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Girls as young as 13 can be sold not once, not twice, not three times, but up to four times, to the highest bidder, in tribal communities in Rajgarh district (Madhya Pradesh), where, by tradition, parents bargain several marriages for their daughters, even when they are extremely young, to get the best price.

This practice is "very common in the district, known for the extreme poverty of its people and home to an important Buddhist centre, known for its absolute silence on social reforms and social justice," said Lenin Raghuvanshi, director of the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR).

Speaking to AsiaNews, he explained that a combination of factors, like poverty and lack of development, favours situations like that of Babita (name changed for security reasons). When she was only 13 years, her father engaged her four times, because a new suitor would offer more money than the previous one, enough for him to pay back the previous one and leave the family with a profit.

The authorities are aware of the problem. Between January 2011 and April 2013, the police recorded 55 complaints. However, no one does anything, and arrests occur only in clear cases of violence or other crimes.

"These people," Raghuvanshi explained, "have lived for generations in poverty, debt and bondedness. In such a dehumanising situation, the weakest and the most vulnerable in the family, namely the women and children are dispensable, to be sold off, bartered."

Rajgarh district "is notorious for bonded child labour and debt bondage. Despite being banned, forms of semi-slavery continue to exist, and children are sold and purchased to meet each type of need," the human rights activist lamented.