Dowry is a social custom where a man and his family demand assets and money from the bride’s family. Even though dowry is declared illegal in India and other neighboring countries, this practice is still highly prevalent in these regions. To know more about this custom, it’s background and consequences, read our post Dowry- The Leading Cause of Female Infanticides and Foeticides in Indian Sub-continent
What is dowry killings?
In some cases, the greed of the guy’s family persists after marriage and the demand for money or expensive items does not end after marriage. In these cases, often the girls are tortured and severely abused to bring cash from her father. Failure to do so leads to extreme torture, murder or suicide of the girls
Killing a new married girl for dowry is very prevalent in Indian society. Despite many State and National level initiatives, laws, campaigns, and educational programs, the murder of a girl by her husband’s family for dowry is still quite common. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 7,634 women died in 2015 – 20 every day – due to dowry harassment. They were either murdered or took their own lives.
Why it is so difficult to abolish this social evil?
The roots of dowry killings lie in severe gender discrimination. Girls are considered as burdens. Society expects the husband and his family must be compensated to take care of the girl for the rest of the life.
In almost ALL marriages in India, every girl brings jewelry, furniture, and other expensive gifts from her family to her husband’s family. It is NEVER even considered as wrong or something to be ashamed of as this is a culture and tradition. Guests, relatives, and neighbors on any wedding are always inquisitive about ‘what did she get from her father?’
Even highly educated and economically self-independent girls would not get married without bringing jewelry, furniture and other expensive gifts from their parents as a tradition. Breaking this tradition is usually associated with dishonoring one’s family in the society and the risk of being tortured or abused after marriage.
For those who are wondering, why does a girl endure such horrific torture for dowry?
Answer to this question lies very deeply in the culture, but they are primarily-
1. Once married off, returning to her parent’s home is considered disgraceful both for the girl and her parents.
2. Girls are taught not to question her in-laws and husband, to tolerate and compromise with everything comes their way, and not to speak up. Girls are often blamed by societies and relatives if a marriage fails.
3. Girls do not have equal value in the society as boys and are not raised equally as boys. They are often considered as a liability. They are not raised up to be economically independent and to take care of themselves. Instead, girls are expected to stay at home to take care of the family. Even while facing extreme torture, they try their best to put up with it as they do not want to be a burden to their father again.
4. The last, but the most horrific reality is, in many cases, girls’ parents are aware of the torture, and demand of continuous dowry after marriage. On one hand, they try their best to meet the demand, and on the other hand, pressurize their daughter to ‘adjust’ and try to be happy with her husband.
I lost the count in how many reported cases of dowry deaths, I have heard a very similar story – where a girl was scared to return to her husband’s home but parents sent her back, only to receive the news of her death after few days!
It is not true that none of these parents loved their daughters or wanted her to die. The stigma associated with the failed marriage of a daughter or the fear of having to take care of her for the rest of her life ALWAYS overpowers the common sense!
While combating a social evil like Dowry Killing is not simple and needs time and a proper strategy, every parent should ensure that their daughter is valued, cared, loved and empowered enough so that she doesn’t choose to endure torture by her husband’s family over coming back to her parents.
For everyone in the society, here are few Do’s and Don’ts to prevent the death of our daughters
- Neither accept nor give dowry under any circumstance. Under Indian law, both who give and those who receive dowries are liable to fines and imprisonment.
- DON’T teach your daughter that remaining silent will make her marriage successful.
- Be alert of any unexplained or suspicious injury, bruises or illness of your daughter after her marriage.
- Look out for possible red flags if your daughter is repeatedly asking for a large amount of money after marriage.
- NEVER force your daughter to go back to her husband’s family if she is showing very strong resistance. Pay serious attention if you see signs of abnormally silent or depressive behavior of your daughter after her marriage.
- Please be aware and look out for red flags of a new bride/girl being tortured or abused by in-laws and husband, in your neighborhood. Take immediate intervention by informing the girl’s parents or the local authority before it is too late.
- Help your daughter to become confident and independent rather than considering her as a burden. Save money for her education, not for her dowry.
- Educate and create awareness in your social and personal circle against dowry.
Last but not the least, an appeal to the newer generation and those who are yet to get married – Be the face of a very big change. Some young activists in India have set up online matrimonial sites like Without Dowry and Dowry Free Marriage to register for dowry free marriage. Considering the far-reaching consequences, it is time for all of us to stand up against this evil practice. If you find it really challenging to oppose such a strong and old social custom, please read our Step by Step guide for Men To Create A Gender Equal Society, for more guidance and resources.
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