Poverty forces girls into 'contract marriages' by family members
TR. Madhavan | 09 Feb 2015

It was sheer poverty and dream of a better life that made the mother of a 22-year-old woman fix her marriage to a Somalian. The foreigner along with three brokers, including two women, was arrested by the police on Saturday for cheating the woman making false promises.

Investigation by the police revealed that Wahab, a matchmaker along with two women brokers approached the woman's mother saying that the Somalian, Syed Ibrahim, would marry the girl and take her to United States. Wahab allegedly facilitated a few marriages of foreigners with local girls in the past too, the police said.

The victim, a class VII dropout, stays along with her mother, three younger sisters and two brothers at a rented house in Teegalkunta of Old City. Her father expired five years ago. Till recently, her two brothers aged 11 years and 13 years worked at a shop and earned Rs. 80 everyday.

"The earnings helped supplement the household income. But, they discontinued the work due to police raids. Now we survive on the paltry money my mother gets working as a domestic maid, while I along with my younger sister do hand embroidery and earn some money," the woman told The Hindu .

Social activists feel that though the police have begun to recognise the problem and are initiating some action against those involved in exploiting the women and girls, the Revenue authorities and Minority Welfare Department are still in slumber.

Several cases of 'contract marriages' have come to light in the last several years and in most cases the victims were minor girls and from poor families. "The media highlighted every case, but never did the revenue authorities visited the houses of the victims and identified their problems. The issue requires a multi-department approach," says S.Q. Masood, a social activist.