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20.2.12




For the first time in 65 years after Independence , young girls in  Wadia village near Palanpur are getting ready for a mass marriage.  This simple act of tying the nuptial knot will change the course of  this small village's history . For the first time, the girls will not  be forced into the flesh trade. Wadia is known as the village of  prostitutes in Gujarat. The mass marriage of 15 girls is scheduled on  March 11. Invitations have been sent out and 1,500-odd baraatis are  expected to come.
 
The excitement is palpable in the village, but this  has not gone down well with the touts. Fearing they will lose the  girls, they have made some threat call to the organizers. Like  anywhere , young girls fetch a higher price when first introduced to  the trade.

Sharda Bhati, local guardian of the girls and leader of  Vicharti Jaati Samuday Samarthan Manch which has got the girls and  their families ready for marriage, has filed a complaint with the  Tharad police  station. "Apparently, the touts don't want the girls to seek a  better life for themselves ," says Mittal Patel, co-ordinator of the  Manch.
 
 "They fear this would lead to the business of prostitution  going bust." The prostitutes belong to the Sarania community, mainly  from Rajasthan and Saurashtra. The NGO convinced boys from the  community to marry the girls by building trust among them. Seven girls  above 18 years of age and eight girls who are younger will take part  in the mass marriage.



 This is commendable since most families are  loathe to get a girl from Wadia as daughters-in-law as real identity  of their fathers is not known. Wadia has a population of 750 people of  which 100-odd women are believed to be involved in prostitution since  pre-Independence days. The men of the families often live off their  women's income, pimping clients.

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