Bride Buying: India’s Darkest Secret

For all the talk of Delhi's rape problem, life outside the capital is often far more grim for Indian women, especially for those sold into marriage


NUH, HARYANA, INDIA—There are more goats and cows than cars in this town, located some 50 miles from Delhi. And for Aditya Desai, who came here to find a husband, it’s nothing like what she expected.
Roughly two decades ago, when she was just 12 years old, Desai’s parents wanted her to marry someone well-to-do. Her family lived in an impoverished village some 1,200 miles away, in the eastern state of Assam. So the prospect of a better life loomed large for Desai, who asked to use a pseudonym for this story. Her parents let her leave with a stranger who promised her a fairy-tale future near the Indian capital. What he provided, however, was a nightmare. For less than $20 he sold her to her first husband in the dangerous Mewat district, just south of Delhi, in the state of Haryana. After a month, her first husband sold her to a man who was three times her age. Young, helpless, and no longer a virgin, she obliged. For more than 20 years now, they’ve remained married. “I was brought here under the pretense I’d have a better life,” she says. “This is the tradition here.”

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