Saturday, April 15, 2006

Dowry-a deplorable practice

A few years back on the third day of my post grad class, during introductions we had to say a bit about ourselves & background education. When Vineet’s turn came, he said he was from a business oriented family (something was obvious), our Professor asked "Vineet why do you have to do post grad course, get married, take dowry, be secured easily and enjoy life”. Vineet retorted “Sir, with a graduate degree my value is only in lakhs but with a post grad degree my value will increase to kokhas”.
Yes, this was my classmate who was so blunt, spent 2 years with him in group activities, presentations, research etc. I realized that he was clear with his thoughts & goals.

Dowry is the closely interlinked to many crimes committed against women - ' female infanticide, domestic violence, neglect of the girl child, denial of educational and career opportunities to daughters, rape, extortion, homicide-bride burning, and discrimination' against women to name a few. .

Given the lack of any news about dowry deaths, dowry violence or dowry demands, one would have thought that the problem had disappeared. Far from it. In fact, it has become far more ingrained and taken new forms. Dowry is a symptom of a deeper disease that relates to how our society values women.

Dowry is one of those social practices which no educated Indian would own up with pride, although many still adhere to this much deplorable practice. Dowry continues to be given and taken . Even among the educated sections of society, dowry continues to form an essential part the negotiations that take place in a marriage.

Some of the latest statistics http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4837122.stm that states that 15000 women have been conned in the state of Punjab alone this year in dowry fraud.

Earlier, families ensured that proper lists and accounts were prepared and the groom's family was made to sign the list of things they received while the dowry itself was put on display for all the relatives to take note of, so there were numerous witnesses to the transaction. Today, for arrant reasons no lists are signed and most of the giving and receiving is veiled in secrecy and made known only between the 2 parties.

This despite the fact that in the last two decades, the anti dowry laws have been made very stringent and draconian. Many interpret the failure of these laws to lessen dowry demanding & torture, as a sign of their poor implementation. Because the conviction rate is too low that results in the culprit going scot free & justice denied to the victim.

Innumerable brides in India are constantly under harassment in their matrimonial homes because their fathers have fallen behind in the payment of endless dowry installments, or the dowry she did bring to her husband is regarded as too meager.
Imagine the plight of a young woman, newly wed into an unfamiliar environment, and surrounded by those she has only just met, who regard her as a means to an end, little more than a device by which to enrich themselves. She knows only too well that a bride may be killed for lack of dowry ... she too must have heard the same stories we've all heard ... but she does not know what to do. She may have overheard her in-laws, even her own husband, talk casually about harassing her, and sometimes contemplate even killing her! The kind of fear that instills in a person is beyond anyones ability to comprehend, its mental torture. It isn't even fear, it is terror.


Domestic violence is on the rise and many of these are caused by inadequate dowry. Brute force is used to establish power relations in the family whereby women are taught and conditioned to accept a slave status because she didn’t fulfill dowry demands . Domestic violence is a way of trying to get women to believe that they can only live at men's mercy & is a burden. It is often committed by men with low self-esteem who destroy a woman's sense of self worth because they feel inadequate to cope with a woman who thinks and acts as a free human being with a mind of her own.
Verbal abuse is also on the rise thus leading to mental torture by undervaluing or devaluing the contribution of household work to the family. Disrespectful speech or behavior towards wife's family for shortcomings in the marriage contract (inability to meet expectations of wedding or post-wedding gifts).
Female foeticide is a direct consequence of dowry .

What I have observed, heard & seen, and is really appalling that domestic violence exists in urban regions as well amongst the educated middle & upper class on a huge scale. The reason it goes unreported or is hushed up because the women are too embarrassed to admit that they are victims of domestic violence .

But does it get them anywhere? Does it better their situation? Why won't she assert her legal rights & make use of it? Why won't the women report the cases to the police when there are adequate laws to take care of it?


If dowry demands are deemed to be NOT satisfied, the groom's family will treat the bride in one of the following ways
Extreme - the bride will be subjected to extreme forms of torture, both physically and emotionally, which may include beating and infliction of physical pain, that may result in her death or permanent physical handicap.
Severe - the bride will be threatened with dismal consequences including divorce and physical abuse, and will have to bear with the insults slung at her parents. Emotional slander can also be cast indirectly by constant fault finding with her inadequacy to meet the expectations of the husband and his family.
Harsh - The bride is reminded of her inadequacies and faced with complaints about her parents. In some cases, pressure is created on her and her parents to meet the demands subsequently.

  • Some ways to help women to take action against & stop dowry harassment is to ensure educational and career opportunities for themselves thus enabling them to become financially independent, strong, assertive & self confident to live a dignified & secured life.
  • Ensure her safety from the discernible threats she is expected to get to take back her case and provide adequate counseling with with an integral support system in place.
  • More helplines/orgs to be formed for women to come forward and report any atrocities inflicted on her.
  • To have more strict anti-dowry laws/domestic laws with stern unyielding consequences that no one should even dare think of dowry. Law should be so fool proof that dowry demander should regret the day he asked for it.

Lately dowry practice seems to have increased alarmingly as some people have their own hidden vested interests....A long way to go till we get rid of this practice to Save Families & Women from this abuse/terror/torture.

Information/statistical data were taken from the following sources:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/4808200.stm
http://southasia.oneworld.net/article/view/129495/1/63
www.indiatogether.org/women/dowry/pledge.htm

5 Comments:

At 05:43, Anonymous harry said...

very well written :D

 
At 23:54, Blogger nabeel said...

anu, your post is well written and i have marked this as blog of the day!. there is a lack of respect for the integrity and dignity of women and how they are stereotyped and dehumanised turned into commodities. women are always seen to be exceedingly anxious about their looks, foolish,incapable of looking after themselves and utterly dependent on man.women are always seen as inferior to man.what we need is not liberation of women, but liberation of man from those old-ill treated ideas and atttitudes which they carry in their head.if you want this kind of harrassmnet in every form(dowry,eve teasing, and domestic violence) to be stopped,women has to carry the most powerful secret weapon the best hope to crash through is education.law can do only little .it is the man world that has to have broad minded opinion.husband and wife are equal in all respects, if we people recognize that,im sure there will be no domestic violence or marital problems.

 
At 00:13, Blogger Anushka said...

@ Harry: Thankyou

@ Nabeel: I agree with you totally . If you have those kind of principles the woman in your life will be one lucky person. Your idea on 'Liberation' is commendable. Thanks for marking this in your blog.

I wish everyone would respect another human being. I am for gender synergy.

 
At 09:52, Blogger laks said...

Anushka:

The thing is: Our society treats women as objects. Something to make food for you, bear ur kids, take care of you when u are sick etc etc.

It is this treatment that has destroyed the status of a woman in India.

Another thing to note is that women were all powerful in our history books. There were great women like Saraswati, Durga, Kali etc etc. Who were like almighty, and were quite independent.

I wonder when Indians lost their respect... i think probably during Mughal Invasions... the Mughals were known to treat women like shit. So maybe we inherited that from them.

 
At 11:23, Blogger Anushka said...

Laks

I do find alot alot alot of men that treat women with so much respect. I think its all in the upbringing . I can speak for myself that I have wonderful brothers, cousins and male friends who have their values in place.

I too have had some bad experiences but that has not made me bitter about male gender and it wont. It would be senseless to do so .

One has to move on and be positive.

Regarding what you said that maybe indians lost their respect during mughal invasions...hmmmm thats an interesting observation....its true they did treat women like objects...lets ponder over it.

Thanks for visiting my space.

 

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