Wednesday, April 16, 2008
I'm 14, a virgin and I'm for sale: do you want to buy me?
Thirty miles west of the Taj Mahal, on the road to the pink city of Jaipur, tourists on buses pass a sight that the guide books rarely mention.
A mile beyond the town of Bharatpur in Rajasthan, where the highway is being widened to four lanes, traffic slows down for roadworks. But the workmen who lounge by their bulldozers have their eyes on something else - a cluster of makeshift shelters where girls, several under 18 and at least two younger than 15, can be seen strolling or sitting, in view of the dusty carriageway.
Tonight, one girl in particular is attracting attention as she sits on a stool by a fire so that she can be seen by passing vehicles. Her heavily made-up, striking face and beautiful pink sari make her look as if she were on her way to a party. But the truth is different. Suli, 14, is a virgin and a bidding war is being held for the right to be the first to sleep with her.
The collection of shelters where she lives houses 59 families, all members of the Bedia tribe, which has a long tradition of caste-based prostitution. Girls born here become prostitutes in a rite of passage into "adulthood" as routine as marriage is to the rest of Indian society. More...
See also: What the f... marriages...