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Author Topic: The Persistence of Dowry  (Read 12793 times)
Posts: 41

« on: August 04, 2014, 11:45:09 AM »


NEW DELHI — This April, Guruswamy, a 52-year-old platform cleaner with the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, had finally found a caste-appropriate match for his 16-year-old daughter Pankaja. But the week before the wedding, he was asked to send a colour television, washing machine and new motorcycle to the groom’s family in South India. After grueling 20-hour shifts cleaning cars and working on the Metro’s platforms through the summer, he has managed to make only enough for a washing machine.

“It will be a while before I have enough to send everything by train,” he said. “I pray every day that they shouldn’t find someone else for their son to marry. No one else from the village in Chennai will marry her if this family rejects her.”

The plight of Guruswamy and Pankaja is a common one for India’s marriage-aged women. And despite the rapid modernization of India’s economy, its traditions—especially regarding dowry—persist, often to women’s detriment.

Yet, data from the National Crime Records Bureau (the country’s only source for collecting and analysing instances of reported crime) indicates more than 8,000 women died due to dowry-related reasons last year. Dowry has been transformed into something more sinister.

Marrying off daughters to suitable men has come to mean that families frequently have to mortgage their homes, sell personal belongings or perform years of hard labour to pay the dowry demanded by the groom’s family. Even for New Delhi’s urban poor, paying dowry can cost a lifetime of daily wage labour, with no retirement age in sight.
The alternative to paying dowry: having an unwed daughter living at home with her parents, which is still seen as a source of shame for many Indian families.

Since dowry demands do not necessarily end with the wedding, Indian wives often find themselves in a hostage-like situation, facing sustained and horrific abuse from their in-laws—ranging from verbal and domestic violence to murder. These demands can increase at whim, and worsen with the birth of a child. The alarming number of young women that died in “accidental” kitchen fires in the 1980s had resulted in an amendment to existing dowry laws in India, whereby the unnatural death of any woman within the first seven years of marriage was officially recognised as a dowry death.

Varsha Ramakrishnan, a physician and student at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, began documenting stories of dowry violence on a training stint in India two years ago. “I realized that the female burn wards at the hospital I was working at were always crowded up to maximum capacity, and the male wards nearly empty,” she said. Some of the women Varsha met had been set alight over as little as Rs 5,000—less than $85 American—and suffered burns over 90 percent of their bodies.

“Tragically, a lot of them lied to the police about what happened to them, because their husbands threatened the children. It’s easier in India to kill your wife and marry someone else than it is to pay dowry,” she pointed out.

Despite data that indicates a woman is killed for dowry every hour, India’s high court recently made it even harder for women to report abuse. On July 2, Justices C.K. Prasad and P.C. Ghose of the Supreme Court said the section of the Indian Penal Code that deals with dowry-related and domestic violence was a “weapon for disgruntled wives,” and prone to misuse. Supporting their argument, the judges cited that only 15 percent of 197,762 arrests made under this section resulted in actual conviction last year.

However, cases involving violence against women have a traditionally—and appallingly—low rate of conviction in India. Regardless of class, women routinely face difficulties filing complaints with the police. Poorer women are frequently harassed further at police stations, and most complaints of verbal or physical abuse are treated as an “internal family matter” or dismissed as frivolous. Even in the event that a case on grounds of “cruelty” is registered with the police, these cases are extremely difficult to prove in courts without visible signs of torture. Making matters worse, women often have to continue living with their in-laws even after filing cases against them, coming under tremendous pressure to withdraw the complaint.
Meanwhile, Guruswamy’s sister, a cook in East Delhi, has just had her third grandchild. He is pleased to report that it is a boy.

“I was worried for her when the first one was a girl,” he said. “A girl will cost your life’s earnings.”

Posts: 99

« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2014, 11:12:38 AM »


Hindustan Times   August 17, 2014
First Published: 00:25 IST(17/8/2014) | Last Updated: 00:41 IST(17/8/2014)

Rani Tripathi and her family gave items worth Rs. 6 lakh in dowry but she then put her foot down and wondered what might follow if they continued meeting greedy demands.

Rani Tripathi, 32, Mumbai
In May 2010, I saw my father crying. When I got to know it was due to dowry demands from my prospective husband's family, I decided I didn't want to go ahead with the marriage that was scheduled for June 19, 2010. Only days before the wedding, their demands for money and goodies just would not stop.

I told my older brother I didn't want to do it. He said even the cards had been printed, so we couldn't call the marriage off. But I told him then I would have to suffer my whole life at the hands of a greedy family.

It all started in December 2009, when a match was fixed between a man in Airoli and me. A priest put us in touch with  the man and his family.

Now Mumbai-based, we are originally from Uttar Pradesh (UP) and they too were from the same state. Our families met and decided to take the talks forward.

When they spoke to us on the phone in the initial days there was no mention of any demands. They said it in so many words: "We don't want dowry."

I was working with a BPO at the time and had taken leave ahead of the wedding to prepare myself for my new life.

Then suddenly it started. Each time there was a pre-nuptial ritual, they would demand something or the other.

They first took Rs. 1.5 lakh, then jewellery, then household items. We ended up giving them items worth more than Rs. 6 lakh.

They still kept asking for more including a new car and furniture, and we gave in to many of their demands. It was not any one person - every member of the man's family kept asking for something or the other at various times.

This is the point when my family and I started getting tense. We were wondering what to do; we had already spent a lot of money.  The point is, if a girl breaks the match, there are always questions. People wonder why. They question your character.

Then my prospective in-laws demanded a Swift car and said they won't go ahead with the wedding until we promised to provide it. I was thinking, what about later? What about my parents?

Then I realised they will keep asking for more. I will have to suffer all my life.

So my father and brothers decided to go and speak to the man's family and try and make them see reason.

We had also decided, by then, that we needed to get them on camera, have proof of them making dowry demands.

One of my brothers took along a pen-sized video camera to their house. They made the same demands. My brothers and father came back with the footage of them asking for various things.

Soon after, we went to the Mulund police station. At first, the police were a little reluctant.

Then we showed the policemen the camera footage. They watched it and immediately registered an FIR against the prospective groom and his parents. They were arrested soon after.

(excerpt) - "My daughter is very courageous.  I have learnt to draw my strength from her.  Earlier, I was worried about society's reaction if we backed out of her marriage.  I was concerned about social mores and rituals, and I had a sense of shame.  But after she decided to take action, I too was determined to support her since she was doing the right thing."  -  Ram Tiwari, father of Rani

But I was scared after backing out of the arrangement and doing the hidden camera operation. What if it backfired and people responded negatively to my decision? Luckily, that was not the case. People came out openly in my support.

After people started talking about me, I started getting marriage proposals. More than 40 people came forward, saying they wanted to marry me.

I decided to marry Pavan, a music composer. He didn't ask me anything, he just came forward without even knowing me.

We got married on the same day that my wedding with the man in Airoli had been scheduled.

Now I am 32 years old and have two children: Kuber is two-and-a-half years old and Shree is just two months.

I am lucky. Should I have waited for the harassment to worsen by marrying into a family that made continued demands? If I were driven to suicide, what evidence could be given for mental torture?

I no longer think about the bad phase. I'm not working right now, but a lot of women approach me for help on such issues. I try and support them as much as I can. I tell them to take action and be strong.

We were able to recover from the Airoli family some of the things they had taken from us.

Though the case was registered immediately, law moves at a slow pace since lakhs of cases are pending in the local court. But I know I am strong, and I will fight this legal battle to the end.
Posts: 99

« Reply #2 on: October 05, 2014, 01:20:40 PM »

Woman dies after being forced to eat cow dung, drink kerosene

BAREILLY: A woman forced by her parents-in-law to eat cow dung and drink detergent powder mixed with water and kerosene oil died after being brought home from hospital in Bareilly. Twenty-eight-year-old Sheela had reportedly been harassed for bringing insufficient dowry after her marriage ten years ago. Police are also exploring whether she was being treated by a quack or faith healer.

Sheela's kin told police and reporters that she had been fed the unusual diet, and also suffered harassment by relatives of her husband. Her brother said she had given birth to two daughters, and was harassed for her inability to bear a son. She had, however, a few years ago, given birth to a son.

Sheela, who lived with her husband at Sharmiya village, had taken ill last year, her brother said, and was taken to different hospitals. Her condition did not improve after prolonged treatment. She had asked her brothers to take her away to her parental home, and complained that she had been ill-treated.

Her sister said, "She was forced to eat cow dung, drink kerosene and detergent mixed with water. When she resisted, her parents-in-law and husband tied up her hands and legs and forced the stuff into her mouth."

Her brother said that she grew progressively weaker, but the harassment continued. It was her brother who had brought her to a local hospital. She died on Thursday. Before dying, she told nursing staff and newsmen of the trauma she suffered, leaving those who heard her tale horrified.

Sheela's siblings have taken a complaint to police, and an FIR was filed at the Shahi police station on Friday. No arrests have yet been made. An autopsy report said the woman had suffered an infection in the lungs. A second autopsy report will be conducted, police said, to ascertain whether the allegations made by the woman's kin are true.

SP (rural) Brijesh Kumar Srivastava told TOI, "The husband and parents-in-law of the woman are poor, and possibly ran out of resources to treat her. They may have fed her these things in the superstitious belief that it would cure her. We are investigating the matter. Strict action will be taken against all those named in the complaint if the allegations are found true."

Source - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bareilly/Woman-dies-after-being-forced-to-eat-cow-dung-drink-kerosene/articleshow/44341330.cms
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