Speaking Out

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Fri Dec 25, 2009

Marrying Women to Save Them

By Sohaila Abdulali

In the farmlands of northern India, in a little town called Sirsa, a group of altruistic men led by an accused murderer and rapist have volunteered to marry women sex workers and save them from the ills of prostitution, the “hellish life ensnared and entrapped in this ignoble trade.”

Ew.

This is one of those times when I read something in the news, ponder for a moment, and realize I have no idea whether to laugh, cry or vomit. It’s so embarrassing when the BBC triumphantly unearths further evidence of the weirdness of India, and so galling when they have a point. It’s not just India, of course. We have sects in the West, too, and religious men really seem to get great satisfaction from saving women (usually from other men). 

But let me explain the story first, in case you missed the picture of the eager mob of men—some grinning, some doddering, some clearly too spiritual to bother with grooming—practically tearing their arms out of their sockets while raising them to snag a sex worker for a wife.

They all belong to a sect called Dera Sacha Sauda, and their leader is known as “Adorable Huzoor Pita Sant Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan.” This push to marry sex workers is part of a campaign to fight AIDS, get points with God, and do noble deeds. It has absolutely nothing to do with getting sex without having to pay for it.

The Adorable H.P.S.G.R.R.S.J.I., by the way, actually has been formally charged with raping two women and conspiring to murder two other people, including a journalist who set out to write about him. Just imagine choosing between life with one of Adorable H.P.’s devoted followers and a long line of customers who pay and go.

So if you’re a sex worker in Sirsa, you can sell sex as a job and earn an income, although it might be dangerous, unhealthy and exploitative, or you can marry one of the righteous fellows (over a thousand have volunteered so far) in the sect, and then not only have sex with him whenever he wants, but also cook, clean, collect water, look after the household and everyone in it, and, of course, be grateful for the huge favour he’s done you. If he’s nice and treats you well, you have even more gratitude to express.

What a choice. When the fight against AIDS becomes an excuse for spinning male horniness into good deeds, and domination into decency, what’s a woman to do?