Friday, April 9, 2010

Signed, Sealed, Delivered-Dowry Deaths in India

There was a point of time when daughters had an equal right over their father's property as did sons. However, under the patriarchal structure, daughters would become a part of their husband's families post marriage. Naturally therefore, this huge chunk of wealth and property was handed over to the girl at the time of her marriage so she could live comfortably for the rest of her life. This once very healthy tradition, the dowry system, has now come to be associated with nothing less than evil. And why shouldn't it be? It is the reason why the country loses so many daughters everyday due to the pure vile greed of their husbands and in-laws. The lesser the prospects for the girl, the higher her price. And parents, to save their families from the "shame" of having an unwed daughter in the house, would happily give away all their wealth, and their greatest treasure-their daughter- to such men.

Sounds pretty much medieval doesn't it? Well, welcome to the lives of thousands of Indian women in the 21st century. According to data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a total of 2,276 female suicides due to dowry disputes were reported in 2006- that is six a day on an average! Once a part of a family that demands dowry at the time of marriage, the girl becomes an unending source of finance to her husband. Pay up or Die is the story in most of these households. It’s an unending nightmare of threats, marital rape, physical abuse and emotional torture.

May 27: Young housewife burnt alive for dowry
LUCKNOW: For nineteen-year-old Rinki dreams of a happily married life was never to be. Barely a month after her marriage, she was allegedly tortured and then set ablaze by her in-laws for dowry in Indiranagar in the small hours of Saturday. Daughter of late Gyan Chand, a fish contractor who expired a year ago, Rinki was married to Anil on April 19... However, soon after the marriage, Balakram [Anil’s father] demanded a colour television instead of a black and white one and a motorcycle as well. When Rinki’s mother failed to meet their demands, the teenage housewife was subjected to severe physical torture, allegedly by her husband and mother-in-law... On Saturday morning she [her mother] was informed that Rinki was charred to death when a kerosene lamp accidentally fell on her and her clothes caught fire. However, prima-facie it appeared that the victim was first attacked as her teeth were found broken. Injuries were also apparent on her wrist and chest.

So what can we do? To begin with, rebel at a personal level. If demands are being made of you or someone you know- regardless of subtlety of manner- turn down the marriage proposal at once. You are NOT a liability to your family and you do NOT have to be sold off into a marriage. On a social level, raise awareness, discuss such matters within your family and friend circle. A number of laws are made to protect the women of India. Use them! Some specifically dowry related laws are:-

1.     The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961- According to this act, anyone who is caught in the act of taking OR giving dowry is punishable upto five years of imprisonment and/or upto 15,000 rupees worth fine(or the amount of the dowry if that is more)
     Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code-This section clearly defines dowry death as “the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry”. Under this section the crime is punishable for ATLEAST seven years in prison.

3.     Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code-This section is to protect women from cruelty by husbands or relatives of husbands . A person accused of said cruelty can get upto three years in prison and/or fine.

Other laws may be also used as the case permits.This madness can be stopped. And we have to be the ones to stop it!

She weeps silently,
silently works,
Around her she knows,
danger lurks.

No one can hear,
her silent screams.
No one sees,
her broken dreams.

Her ears listen,
there's muffled noise-
Her in-laws' orders,
her husband's voice.

Before she knows it
the deed is done.
Some kerosene, a matchstick,
and off they run.

She burns like the Phoenix,
amidst the darkness she glows.
Except from her ashes,
she never arose.


Manjunath said...

Dowry and cast system is one of the Cancer in our indian marriage system, though compared to previous decades present dowry torture has gradually reduced, still we have to wait till this decade until it is completely eradicated from our society...

and dowry system is another reason for girl child abortion

Ana_treek said...

Some of my relatives think its a status symbol, I think its pathetic

Journomuse said...

Nice thought, but very often I find that its the women in the household who perpetrate atrocities on the new woman in the household.. Women need to be educated to empathise and sympathise with each other..that itself can bring down the hazards of dowry demands...

Lucy Fur said...

absolutely.its a vicious circle.the older women know no other way.not that it justifies anything.yes,education and awareness is essential!

Uncommon Sense said...

making women educated and financially self sufficient is the only way forward...

i mean it starts with education, so its obvious it will take some time.. but things will improve for sure