Grim Fate for Cross-Regional Brides in Northern India

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A cross-regional bride from Tripura faces ‘Biharan’ slurs that also would extend to her three boys.
(Reena Kukreja for The Globe and Mail)

NEW DELHI—By Stephanie Nolen for The Globe and Mail on March 20, 2013—
“They leave the greenest, most lush areas of the country and find themselves in harsh, dusty places. They leave easygoing cultures for a conservative place where they must cover their faces at all times, even within their own houses, with their sari veil. They go from living on rice to a place where the staple is wheat – and when they can’t figure out how to roll that wheat dough into a chapati they face beatings, as they do for a hundred other infractions. And there is no one, for 1,000 kilometres in any direction, who can say a word in a language they understand.

That’s the frequent fate of the cross-regional bride, a phenomenon that has grown out of the preference for male children in northern India. That preference has produced sharply skewed sex ratios in the past two decades.

The rules of marriage are ironclad and almost unchanged over thousands of years – You marry within your subcaste, outside your village, but within a tight geographical area.

Many men in the north, finding themselves without women of their caste to marry, are importing brides of different caste, ethnicity and even religion.

Two Queen’s University professors have dug deep into the lives of the women who are transported into an alien land to fill the wife gap. Their findings are grim. “We just heard such cries of anguish from these women,” said Reena Kukreja, principal investigator on a new study called Tied in a Knot. She said they began the research five years ago with some hope the migrant-marriage phenomenon might be a disruptive force for positive social change. Instead, she and colleague Paritosh Kumar soon found that behind the sari veils they are now made to wear at all times, these migrant brides are often abused, worked to the bone and without recourse to help.”

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