Mumbai Crime: Relatives sell their daughters for a night in name of customs

Updated: Sep 29, 2018, 16:32 IST | Suraj Ojha

MID-DAY INVESTIGATION >> This paper uncovers the thriving virginity-for-sale racket in the city, where families from other states sell their daughters to the highest bidder for a night, all in the name of tradition

Mumbai Crime: Relatives sell their daughters for a night in name of customs
mid-day visits a family in Thane West, where the aunt (left) negotiates the sale of the girl's (right) virginity

Sixty thousand rupees - that's how much you can buy a virgin for in Mumbai. For this amount, the girl's own family will happily sell her virginity, and call it a shaadi or wedding. But, if the buyer actually wants to keep the girl as his bride, he will have to pay her a monthly salary. If not, the family will push the girl into prostitution to support them, all under the guise of 'tradition'.

The virgin trade is alive and thriving in Mumbai, where families come from all over the country to sell their daughters and sisters to the highest bidders. They quote rates anywhere between Rs 60,000 and Rs 1.5 lakh for the girls' virginity. In many cases, the girls are underage: as young as 16, if not younger.

mid-day extensively worked on a tip-off that these families sent the girls to local dance bars, to catch the eye of customers. This reporter went undercover and visited a few bars in and around Thane district in the last week of August. Most of the deals were discussed in bars, and after painstaking investigation, this paper got hold of three families in Bhiwandi, Thane and Navi Mumbai, and video-recorded them offering the girls' virginity. In a fourth case, we have an audio recording of a woman who claimed to source virgins from Kolkata.

Our undercover reporter strikes a deal for Rs 60,000 at a bar in Thane
Our undercover reporter strikes a deal for Rs 60,000 at a bar in Thane

The families called the entire process 'shaadi', and claimed it was their community's tradition. Part of the deal also required the buyer to provide the entire family with clothes, food and sweets, in addition to the money. However, the girl will only stay on with him if he continues to pay her family a salary of around Rs 30,000 per month. If not, she will be free to enter the sex trade to support her family.

Case 1.
'These are our customs'
On receiving a tip-off about a virgin on offer at a bar in Bhiwandi, this reporter headed there. The girl looked like a minor, and on being asked if she would go out for a night, she answered that she was still a virgin, and as per her family tradition, she would lose her virginity for Rs 1.5 lakh. She gave us a contact number and asked us to call for negotiation.

On calling the number, a woman picked up, claiming to be the girl's aunt. She invited us home to discuss the deal. On August 29, we visited at her home in Thane West, where the girl was also present. The conversation began with small talk about the aunt's health, as she had recently delivered her seventh child. The aunt called the virginity deal 'shaadi', and said it was their family tradition in Unnav. She told us the girl was 16, and for the last five months, they had been looking for a buyer to pay Rs 1.5 lakh for her virginity. He would also have to give her a mangalsutra and saree. But after this, if he wanted to keep her as his wife, he would have to pay her a salary. The aunt added that the girl also had a younger sister who would go through the same process.

Aunty: Ye mere pati ke bhai ki beti hain, hum log Kanpur se hain... Kanpur aur Etawah ke beech mein (She is my brother-in-law's daughter; we hail from a place between Kanpur and Etawah).
Reporter: Inhone mujhe dedh lakh bataya usme kuch kar sakte hain (She quoted Rs 1.5 lakh, can we do anything about the rate)?
Aunty: Aap kya de sakte hain (How much will you give)?
Reporter: Woh mere pe mat dalo aap; main 25 bol sakta hoon, par aise bhi nahi karna hain. Achhi ladki hain, uski insult nahi karni hain (Don't just put it all on me; I could quote R25K, but I don't want to insult the girl).
Reporter: Aapke reeti riwaz kya hain (What customs do you have)?
Aunty: Hamare yahan ki yahi riwaz hain, beta (These are our customs, son).
Reporter: Kya (What)?
Aunty: Dedh lakh rupye, ghar mein jitne log hain unke liye kapde-latte aayenge - jitne bhi bhai-behan hain - aur phal, mithai, yahi sab cheezen chahiye (Rs 1.5 lakh, clothes and food for everyone in the family - all her siblings - along with fruits and sweets).
Reporter: Yahin par karna hai ya gaon mein (Will it happen here or in your native village)?
Aunty: Gaon mein agar ye sab karna hota, to yahan kyun aate (If we had to do it in our village, why would we have come here)?
Aunty: Yeh aapko pasand karti hain; ghar par charcha bhi ki hain. Humne kaha milao, dekhte hain, baat-cheet karte hain (She likes you, she's spoken about you at home too. We said, bring him home, let's speak to him).
Reporter: Shaadi ke baad kya karogi (What happens after the 'wedding')?
Aunty: Shaadi ke baad kya karoge matlab? Hotel bhejoge ki ghar baitha loge, uss hisaab se aap samjhdaar ho. Aapke liye bhi koi nayi duniya nahi hain (It's up to you, whether you choose to keep her at home or send her out to hotels and bars).

Case 2.
'We'll take Rs 60,000 for her virginity'
Mid-day learnt of a new girl at a Thane bar who had put her virginity on the market. Another bar girl provided a contact number for her cousin. Excerpts from the phone call:

Reporter: Toh iska kitna bol rahe ho aap, aur yeh kunvari hai na abhi tak? (So how much are we talking? And she's a virgin, right?)
Cousin: Haan. (Yes.)
Reporter: Kitna bol rahe hain aap? (How much are you asking?)
Cousin: Ek. (One [lakh].)
Reporter: 70 tak ho sakta hai kya? (What about Rs 70,000?)
Cousin: 80 hajar tak manva sakti hu main. (I can persuade the family for Rs 80,000.)
Cousin: Un logon ne to ek lakh hi bola tha, par meri achhi dost ne aapko mera number diya hain, to main 80 tak bol dungi (They want Rs 1 lakh, but since my good friend gave you this contact, I'll convince them for 80).
Reporter: Hain kahan ki wo aise? (Where is the girl from?)
Cousin: Rajasthan.
Reporter: Aur umar kitni hai uski? (How old is she?)
Cousin: [Short pause] 18.
Reporter: 16 bol rahi thi tumhari dost (Your friend had said 16).
Cousin: Actually mere paas nahi rehti hain par woh kam umar ki hain. (She is younger.)
Reporter: Ladki ko leke kahi bahar ja sakte hain ki nahi? (Can I take the girl out of town?)
Cousin: Nahi, akele nahi le ja sakte. Nayi hain na, Thane me hi kahi jaana hoga (No, she's new, you'll have to meet in Thane).
Reporter: Achcha, agar ghar baithana ho to kitna dena padhega? (How much will I have to pay if I want to keep her at home?)
Cousin: Woh to baad ki baat hai, kaisa lagta hain dono ko ek dusre ka saath (We'll see about that later; let's see how well you two get along).
Reporter: Waise uska hua nahi hai na (She has not been touched by any man, right)?
Cousin: Nahi, nahi, aisa thode karenge; aapko paagal thode na banana hai (No, no, we woulnd't do that, we don't want to drive you mad).

On September 20, the reporter met the cousin at the bar where the girl worked. The cousin agreed to settle for Rs 60,000.
Reporter: Kitna loge aap? (How much will you take?)
Cousin: 60 hajar lungi. (Rs 60,000)
Reporter: Woh virgin hain na? (She's a virgin for sure?)
Cousin: Haan usko abhi tak kisi ne haath tak nahi lagaya hain. (No one has touched her yet.)

Case 3.
Mother sells daughter
A Rajastani woman came to Mumbai to sell her young daughter in March. This girl was again introduced to us by one of the bar girls. According to her family members, as per the tradition of their community, the birth of a girl is rejoiced as the birth of a new earning member for the family. Boys are considered a liability, as they survive on the income of the women.

The mother had demanded Rs 80,000 from this reporter for her virginity. The buyer would also have to pay Rs 30,000 per month as a salary to the mother. The day the payments stop, the girl will be sent to a dance bar, free to have sex with other man.

When we met the same girl in the bar in the last week of August, she had struck a deal with someone and sold her virginity for Rs 1 lakh. Now she has joined the flesh trade, and goes out for Rs 15,000 per night.

Mail brides from Kolkata
This paper tracked down yet another woman who claimed she could source virgins from Kolkata. On being contacted, however, she said that she had put the trafficking on hold, as there were strict police checks at Howrah railway station. She said she'd resume the supply after the Ganesh festival

Reporter: [On voice message] Suna hain tum gaon se aai ho, kisi ko laaye ho ki nahi saath mein?

Woman: [Reply on voice message] Ladki nahi leke aayi. Bahut section garam hain. Howrah mein do ladki logon ko pakda hain. Ganpati ke baad aayega. (Haven't brought any girls. There's too much heat on us there; two girls got caught at Howrah. Will bring girls after the Ganpati festival.)

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