Shafiq R Khan


Paro: An abusive word

Paro or Molki is a ‘women who is purchased for a few bucks’,
The glossary of abusive words has increased with a new entrant, ‘paro’. The word ‘paro’ is well known in regions like Haryana, Punjab, western Uttar Pardesh and Rajasthan, though all abusive words have always been identical to derogatory attitude of men towards women, this is also of this sort and it means, ‘women who is purchased for a few bucks’, ‘paro’ are those girls who are bought and brought from eastern Uttar Pardesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and Bengal to compensate less women and produce children. She is not a prostitute in open terms neither a keep, but in a place where levirate (where after death of a husband his younger brother takes his place or in his life too his younger brothers can make sexual relations with the same women) is so evident even today, that at what extent it is suitable to call her a ‘wife’? And even so when she is purchased in an adverse condition.
Paro is exact and true example of Catherine McKinnon’s definition for relation of the two major sexes, “man fucks women: subject verb object”. This kind of only example in Indian classical texts, is Draupadi. Visit any region of Haryana and you will find the above definition of Catherine true. However, no wider and authoritative research in this field is available, but scattered information and data do draw a sketchy picture of the situation. From field & animal husbandry to so called ‘women’s work’ all is ‘their duty’, and you can imagine if women who are brought as legal wife with a huge dowry has to do all these what happens to those who are bought and brought from far away. This may not directly be a case of human trafficking but indirectly it is! And it’s very serious violation of human values (including basic human rights). Before completion of this research it will not be appropriate to say anything conclusively. Let us see few samples from our program which underlines the seriousness of the situation.
I found a man who is very reputed in his society for being vocal against female foeticide and gender inequality, when we got closer, I found he has two sons and no daughter, wife and his widowed mother take care of agro & domestic chores and this man has took to social service.
Wife of a village headman in Sohna block of Gurgaon was gang raped by her own husband and son-in-law with their friends. No FIR is registered. No village or Jatiya panchayat is held. And how it could be? The entire village is aware of this and it is not a new thing for them at all. It has got ‘social approval’.
A cousin of one of our comrades in this movement, who does not have good economic condition, wanted me to help him getting a job in Delhi. He is about 40 years old and still unmarried, thinking of purchasing a ‘paro’ for himself and for this he has to earn. That is why he wishes to go Delhi and arrange some money; he has already talked to a person who has asked him Rs.15000/- for the purpose. He says, “due to weaker economic background, it is hard to find a bride and it is a matter of luck for a man to get married here”.
Irony is that on one hand marriage for man is a matter of luck and on the other graph of dowry is touching sky.
There is a general consensus on the issue of female foeticide that it is an urban phenomena and misuse of modern technologies of pre-birth sex determination has been a tool to prevent the property from going outside family for the people of fortune. But at the same time we forget that from time immemorial it has been a regular practice among middle class (in wide perspectives) to kill their infant daughters by drowning in milk, by nasal blockade and such other practices like giving the newborns salt, opium in their mouth.

Historical evolution of Paro (molki)
Social acceptance of karewa and its prevalence can be seen in folklore and local proverbs. Also this is noticed by one British administrator, observing the practice in early 20th century onward, recorded that even where there was only one married brother, the other brothers had free access to his wife. (M. L. DARLING, writing in 1925). An oft-repeated story of those days, jocularly related even now to show what a marital association entailed in the past, concerns a new bride who had four or five jeth or dewar. All of them had free sexual access to her. After fifteen or twenty days of her marriage, the bride requested her mother-in-law to identify her husband from among them. Upon this the mother-in-law came out in the gali (street) and started to howl loudly; when asked about it she replied: " It is difficult for me to live in this house any more. I have been married for forty years, yet even now I have never asked anyone to determine the identity of my husband. This fifteen-day-old bride is already asking about her's." (Prem Chowdhry)

The story gives a peep into the popular perception of sexual ex- ploitation as it existed in those days, its common knowledge, as also its acceptance, albeit in a highly exaggerated manner.
Women's awareness of this exploitation is highlighted even more
directly and in a very perceptive manner in a lokgeet (folk song), not commonly heard these days, sung by a young bride. While cataloguing the enormous work load she is made to tackle in her in-law's house every day, the bride revealingly discloses :

maar koot ke main papan geri
dewar kar liya ghar ka
main to mari ho gai he Ram
dhandha ker ke is ghar ka

Beaten and forced to live
with my brother-in-law in sin,
unending house work
has emaciated me, oh God!

In another ragini (song), used for enacting a swang (local folk thea-tre), or swang, as it is locally known, the theme revolves around the unwelcome advances of the jeth who forces himself on his sister-in-law
and refuses to take no for an answer. It goes as follows:
Jeth aur Bahu
Jeth : chandrma si shan dekh pari tere mahal me agya
Bahu : bapa barga jeth jale kayun karan ughai lagya
Jeth : bhai mera perdes gaya din kate kis ke sahare
Bahu : panch saat din me ajya jale matna boli mare
Jeth : tu mewa ki paki dali main khalun ban subare
Bahu : matna chonch lagaiye papi bhar rakhaya zahar chhuhare
Jeth: ashik banda mashukon ke phal tor tor k khagya
Bahu : jis ne chedi beer birani, turant natija pagya
. . . . . .
Jeth: mere kamre me chale ne gori tu batuwa si
Bahu: sou marungi joot oot ke ker raha badmasi
Jeth: joot maar chahe paag taar le chahe tudwade phansi
Bahu: kali nagan beer paraie matna samjhe hansi

Jeth and Bahu
J: Enticed I am to your abode by your beauty.
B: Your overtures don't befit a father figure.
J: Your life is barren with my brother away.
B: Proposition me not, you rascal, he'll soon be back.
J: You are like ripened fruits, taste I must.
B: Poisonous are these ripened fruits, touch not.
J: A lover must possess his beloved.
B: Punished are those who covet someone else's woman.
J: Come to me, my sweet one, be mine.
B: I shall beat you soundly, you scoundrel.
J: Beat me or humiliate me or hang me, possess you I must.
B: Don't mock, someone else's woman can be a venomous viper.

There is also an oft-repeated saying, very commonly heard not
only in this region but all over northern India with minor linguistic
variations, which maintains:
kamzor ki lugai sab ki bhabhi
A weak man's wife is everyone's bhabhi.

The proverb originates from the earlier practice, given above, which shows the brother-in-law to have sexual access to the sister-in-law.
Even the father-in-law, given a chance, was not above the sexual
exploitation of his daughter-in-law. That this was customarily practiced was recorded by British officials in the late 19th century: Certain villages which need not be named, have the evil reputation of deliberately getting girls older than their boy husbands in order that the father of the latter may have illicit enjoyment of them (JOSEPH 1911, 19).
In fact, colonial Punjab and Haryana witnessed instances of the father-in-law claiming karewa marriage with the widowed daughter-in-law in
the mid-1930s (RATTINGAN 1966, 82). From the sexual point of view these attempts may very well have been to legitimize an already existing relationship which had possibly left the widowed bahu (daughter-in-law) pregnant. An old folktale highlights these aspects:
A widowed daughter-in-law conceived from her sasura (father-in-law).
She was deeply embarrassed about what the people were
going to say. The father-in-law reacted to this by asking her to
stitch him a quilt full of patches. This quilt he wrapped around
himself and sat down in the front courtyard of the house. All the
men and women who saw him laughed at the old man and com-
mented on his heavily patched-up quilt. After a few days they
stopped, having got used to him and his quilt. It was then that
the old man said: " Look here, you woman, now it's all over.
People take just a few days to get used to a thing."
The wide-scale social acceptance in the past of this level of sexual exploitation actually now have transformed into a new aspect, people have now started purchasing women for these kind of sexual needs. These purchased women are now called paro or molki. The word paro refers to women from across Jamuna river and molki (mol+ki) literally means ‘purchased’. Paros are generally those women who are purchased from outside the state from West Bengal, Maharastra, Madhya Pardesh, Assam, Bihar, Pahad (Uttrakhand & Himachal Pardesh) and Uttar Pardesh.
Paro: Perception and Causes (An unknown face)
the fact observed in our target area is that paro or molki owning villages become the source of spreading horizontally as well as vertically paro culture. In villages like Kharakramji, the paro was mainly from Maharashtra. In the village Shillakhedi of the paro are mainly from West Bengal. It was found that the paro who has been imported earlier in any of the village becomes the medium for another paro import from the same area to which she belongs. The ‘husbands’ of those paro are found indulged in the heinous work of dalali. For example, Hari Om (name changed) from Kharakramji, who did not wanted to be interviewed but admitted with a glory that he owns a paro. He also said that he is continuously in contact with the other dalals of the city. He warned us of dire consequences if we write anything about the paro or polyandry. He told us with pride that he would bring more paro in the village for the other unmarried and unemployed people who use to come to him to arrange for a paro for them.
The main reasons, which we observed during the fieldwork for importing a paro in jaatland is the practice of polyandry system, cheap labour, small landholdings and division of property, scarcity of girls, the passing of marrying age and heavy dowry. But, the irony is that on one hand men are purchasing girls and on the other graph of dowry is touching sky. Whatever the situation lead us towards but the theories of social study points us to somewhere else.
Let us see an example based on marriage money:

According to Social scientist Monika Das Gupta

General perception is that (where situation is in M/F) marriage money flow from girls to boys:


Where a boy born in 1980

F Male Female
Cohort 1980 ----------------------- 1982, 83, 84,85,86,87,88,89,90
(Bonded 25- 35) (Bonded 18-27)

So, in above example we can see that a male cohort of 1980 can accept female cohorts from 1982 to 1990 which means a male can marry from among 9 girls, whereas he is free from bonded age of marriage. So the money flow is in favor of males.

But in our target area situation is like this:

Where a boy born in 1980,
(It must be noted here that the boy has a bonded age of marriage)

F Male Female
Cohort 1980 --------------------------------------- 1982, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87
(Bonded Age 17-23) (Bonded Age 15-20)

Here, a male cohort of 1980 can only accept female cohorts from 1982 to 1987, which means, a boy born in 1980 has choice of 5 girls, but it is important here that he is bonded to marry within an age (17-23yrs), though, marriage money is in boy’s favor. Because, girls are also bonded by marrying age. And if a man passes his 30th spring without marriage, he has only option—paro.

As we have already discussed earlier, practice of levirate (in its polyandry form) is a historical fact in this area still exist. However, we cannot see it clearly or nobody accepts it openly but it is observed that in every home where a paro has been brought, all of her ‘brother-in-laws’ (jeths or dewars), are unmarried. A member of Panchayat of Kharakramji village admitted this fact. He says, “ bhai swaad len ke maare mol ki lyavain hain, saaryan ka kaam chalya reh ar ghar main lugai dikhe ja”( they import molki for satisfying their sexual needs, all the brothers take advantage of her and for the neighbors they have a bride to show).
Considering the point of cheap labour, we saw in the houses where paro are imported, only paro use to go for the daily farm work, whereas the local bahoos (brides) seldom go to the field. A head of a family, Ram Singh (name changed), told us, “ sara kaam bhaaj bhaaj kai karein sain, choolle ka, nyaar ka, paanika, ghar ka, bahar ka, raat ka” ( they (paro) do all types and all of the work very fast running here and there, like in the fields, home, cattle, management of water, night duty etc.).
Taking the point of division of land and property, we heard from people, “bhai dharti tai rahi nahi, wa tai utni e rehegi ar balak hoge ghane tai sabkai Bandai thodi thodi awaigi, rojgaar rahe nahi, padhan likhan main neet hondi ni, fer batao rishta koon lekai aan lagya ar aawai bi kyoon.”(the size of the land remains the same but the claimants increased generation by generation, employment is scanty, education gives nothing, then tell who will come with marriage proposals and whyt?).
No doubt, scarcity of girls is one of the reasons behind the import of the girls from other states. However, there is a mixed opinion of the people in this regard. Some of them agree that yes, there is an obvious relationship between female foeticide. As an elderly women laments, “apniyan nai maarde sain ar doosryan ki nai le aawaiin sain, yu tai nue hogya jukar apni barseen khatam hojya ar doosre ki main baadhha tek le”( they kill their girls and now bringing other’s here, it’s like as if our ‘barseen’-- a kind of green leafy weeds for cattle, stock is over and are going to cut off neighbors too). On the other hand, some of the people clearly denied the relationship between female foeticide and import of paro. A social activist Deepak Chahal, was of opinion, “chhori khatam hon ka ib taieen tai koye asar nahi sai pher, han, aan aali nasalan pai iska ghana bhoonda asar padaiga” (till now there is no effect of killing the girls but the upcoming generation or in future, it’s worst effects will be seen).
Now coming on the factor of age, we saw that the owners or the ‘husbands’ are in the age groups of 25 - 40 years. In the words of jeth of a paro, Suresh Kumar Kataria, “dharti hilla rahaya nahi, jyanhe tai chhori aale rishta lekai aande nahi, ib nuye baat dekhde dekhde sari umar likadgi, fer haar kai nai mol kiye lyani padi, ib karan ke jee tai nahi manda par bhai nu hai balakan ka ghar basjya mhare jinde ji aur ke chahiye.”(land and employment are not available, so the people were not coming with proposals of marriages for our son so at last we had to bring a molki).

it is found that the ‘husbands’ of the paro or molki, their relatives become the agents and they are continuously in contact with the agents in Hissar, Sonipat and Jind, which epicenter of the trafficking.
Various incidents have come into light of paro escaping with cash or jewelry. A deserted paro, Usha (name changed), said that they do this due to the cruelty and rude behaviors of their owners. They are forced to do a lot of manual works and to share bed with other men, then often beaten up in this course.
The agents dwell in the village itself. Sometimes they are truck drivers or the people who are continuously out-goers. A paro is sold more than once in many cases by the agents and their ‘husbands’. The rate varies from Rs.7, 000/- to Rs.40, 000/- as the paro owners told.
The paro owners also lead their neighbors and relatives from other village to a place where they can find a paro. Then people go to buy the paro. All the expenses throughout the way are afforded by the person for whom the paro is being bought. ………………………… (Continued)

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