Haji Khan, a lanky man in his thirties, moved inconspicuously in the bylanes of Hyderabad’s Old City, India, scouring the streets for child brides to be sold to older men visiting from Gulf states, and making around $150 for each girl.
There had been two kinds of deals: “Pucca”, or long-term marriages, where the girl has to fly back with her husband to his home country, and “time pass” marriages, that lasted only as long as the man is in India.
The man, now police informer, told Thomas Reuters Foundation that they used to line up 20 to 30 girls for each Arab in a hotel, and he would select one. The men gave the rejected girls $3 to go back home, and the men came with old, used bridal clothes, soaps, and nightgowns for the girl they would marry. Most of the marriages had been “time pass”.
The police caught a man involved in the practice of wealthy men from Gulf states, such as Dubai and Oman, “marrying” teenage girls in Hyderabad for the duration of their stay in India.
The men signed post-dated divorce documents at the time of the marriage to be delivered to the brides after their new husband has left the country, and the marriages have been performed by a Muslim officiant, who would forge the bride’s age to show her as an adult.
V. Satyanarayana, a deputy commissioner of the police in Hyderabad, said that most of the girls don’t even know that they will be abandoned within 15 or 20 days of their marriage. The men come on tourist visas, and leave after a month or so.
The young brides did accompany their husbands to their home country only in a few cases, but they were there forced into servitude.
More than 30 prospective bridegrooms from Oman and Qatar have been arrested last month, including brokers, qazis, and hotel owners, and charged, according to the police.
14 girls have been saved in the case, all of which under the age of 18.
According to the police, most of the marriages are performed after the festival of Eid, when it’s “season time” and tourists from the Gulf visit Hyderabad.
Older generations remember “good marriages” of Hyderabadi girls to Arab men visiting the city in the 1970s and 1980s.
The recent years have seen the trend turn into a business. They lie to the girls that they will see the Burj Khalifa (Dubai’s landmark skyscraper) and live in the palatial homes like Atlantis if they marry an Arab man.