TIMES OF INDIA / PRASHANT DAYAL
AHMEDABAD: For the first time in 65 years after Independence, young girls in Wadia village near Palanpur are getting ready for a mass marriage. This simple act of tying the nuptial knot will change the course of this small village’s history. For the first time, the girls will not be forced into the flesh trade. Wadia is known as the village of prostitutesin Gujarat.
The mass marriage of 15 girls is scheduled on March 11. Invitations have been sent out and 1,500-odd baraatis are expected to come. The excitement is palpable in the village, but this has not gone down well with the touts. Fearing they will lose the girls, they have made some threat call to the organizers. Like anywhere, young girls fetch a higher price when first introduced to the trade.
Sharda Bhati, local guardian of the girls and leader of Vicharti Jaati Samuday Samarthan Manch which has got the girls and their families ready for marriage, has filed a complaint with the Tharad police station.
“Apparently, the touts don’t want the girls to seek a better life for themselves,” says Mittal Patel, co-ordinator of the Manch. “They fear this would lead to the business of prostitution going bust.”
The prostitutes belong to the Sarania community, mainly from Rajasthan and Saurashtra. The NGO convinced boys from the community to marry the girls by building trust among them. Seven girls above 18 years of age and eight girls who are younger will take part in the mass marriage. This is commendable since most families are loathe to get a girl from Wadia as daughters-in-law as real identity of their fathers is not known.
Wadia has a population of 750 people of which 100-odd women are believed to be involved in prostitution since pre-Independence days. The men of the families often live off their women’s income, pimping clients.
While there have been many attempts by the state government and NGOs to get the women out of the trade, they have failed due to local opposition. The manch started working with the women three years back and convinced families to marry their daughters instead of pushing them in the trade.