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 neighbouring countries, this practice is still highly prevalent in these regions. To know more about this custom, the 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 the demand for money or expensive items does not end after marriage. Often brides are tortured and severely abused to bring cash from their parents. Failure to do so leads to extreme torture, murder, or suicide.
Killing a newly married woman for dowry is very prevalent in Indian society. Despite many state and national level initiatives, laws, campaigns, and educational programs, the murder of women 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 origin of dowry lies in the patriarchal believes that the groom and his family should be compensated by the bride’s parents for taking care of her for the rest of her life.
Regardless of the demand of the groom’s family, it’s a tradition in India to gift expensive jewellery, furniture, and other expensive items to the daughter, son-in-law and his family. It is NOT considered wrong and a part of the culture. Families, relatives, and neighbours deeply care about what a girl brings from her father. It’s also a matter of status and pride for both the families.
Even highly educated and economically self-independent girls would not get married without bringing jewellery, furniture, and other expensive gifts from their parents. Breaking this tradition is usually associated with dishonouring one’s family in society.
However, in some cases, the groom and his family demand huge dowry. Marriages are fixed on the family’s ability to meet those demand. Sometimes, the demand continues after marriage and women are violently abused and murdered if the demands are not met.
Why does a girl endure such horrific torture for dowry?
The answers to this question lie very deeply in the patriarchal culture –
1. Once married off, returning to her parent’s home is considered disgraceful. A failed marriage is a stigma for a girl and her family.
2. Women are expected not to question their in-laws and husbands, to tolerate and compromise with everything comes their way.
3. Girls do not have equal values and are not raised equally as boys. They are often considered a liability and not raised up to be economically independent. 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 parents.
4. The last, but the most horrific reality is, in many cases, girls’ parents are aware of the torture, and constant demand for dowry after marriage. On one hand, they try their best to meet the demand, and on the other hand, push their daughters to ‘adjust’. Saving the daughter’s marriage is more important for them than to save her life, and they continue to ignore many alarming signs.
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 a few days!
It is not that these parents wanted their daughters 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 overpowered common sense!
While combating a social evil like dowry killing is not simple and needs a proper strategy, every parent should ensure that their daughter is valued, cared for, 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 society, here are a 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 daughters 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 behaviour of your daughter after her marriage.
- Please be aware and look out for red flags of a new bride/girl being tortured in your neighbourhood. 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 treating her as a burden. Invest in her education, not in her marriage.
- 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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