The Trafficking of Girls in India

Bilasi Singh's daugher Bisanti has been missing for two years. Photo: Natalia Antelava

The December rape and murder of a young medical student on a bus in New Delhi shocked India and galvanized a protest movement across the country.

But when it comes to violence against women, the problem goes far beyond one case, one city, or the issue of rape.
On a misty, chilly morning in the village of Bamla, a few dozen men lock arms, grunt, and groan as they wrestle each other in a huge sandpit.

The men of northern India are famous for being strong and fit — and single. Not one of these wrestlers is married. All of them were born just around the time when ultrasound technology made it possible to determine the sex of fetuses — and to abort the ones that are girls.

The United Nations says today an estimated 50 million women and girls are missing in India because of an illegal, yet widespread practice of female feticide and infanticide. The Indian government disputes these estimates, but the reality of life in Haryana is hard to argue with.
"It's such a social issue that every house is facing this problem," says Rishi Kant, an Indian social activist. "There are young boys who are not getting girls, and when you talk to them they are frustrated."

This frustration is breeding a network of organized crime across the country. More and more families, unable to find wives for their sons, resort to buying them instead.

I follow police as they raid a house in Haryana, looking for a 14-year-old girl. She is sweeping the floor when we enter the room. She clutches a broom as policemen in beige uniforms tower over her, asking questions.