Selling your spouse: when is it legal?
Here’s a story that I found in the Times of India today: a man sold his wife to a broker for Rs. 6,000 (about US$114). This was the money that he needed to keep himself in liquor, the Times reported.
The accused, Medula Rajender, 42, of Malyala village in Chandurthi mandal sold his wife Medula Ammayi, 36, to the broker on October 13 to meet his liquor expenses. Daily wager Rajender found it hard to buy liquor and struck a deal with the broker to sell his wife.
Not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, Rajender took his wife to the bus station, bought her a ticket, and told her to wait for the broker, according to the report. Ammayi took the bus, but to a relative’s place instead. There, she reportedly told them everything. Then her son turned in the father to police.
“I was shocked when he told me that he had sold me for Rs 6,000 to the broker in Kortula. He even bought a bus ticket to Korutla for me and left the place,” recalled a crying Ammayi.
The journalist in me can’t help but wonder if the broker ever showed up, and why nobody quoted him in the story. The significantly smaller part of me that finds contract law interesting wants to know: can you really sell your spouse, or anyone else for that matter, in some parts of India? Are there places where you could reasonably expect to find a broker to handle such a thing? If the broker shows up at the bus station and says, “Where’s that person I bought?”, could a court enforce his right to purchase? Or is this illegal as well as unfortunate?