If women are to be empowered, dowry harassment has to stop. Dowry harassment and deaths are a unique form of violence against women by their husbands and in-law. To curb this social evil which threatens the morality of our society and humiliates its women the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 was enacted. The Government has amended the act twice but society has not addressed this issue. Protests by women’s groups all over the country served to focus people’s attention on the human costs of dowry. The bride burning cases which numbered around 558 in 1985 are now reportedly in thousands. Due to the demand for dowry the female fetus may be aborted but the practice of dowry continues…
In Goa the dowry system exists either openly or clandestinely as dott. 75% of the cases registered under 498A of the Indian Penal Code pertaining to husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty, are dowry related. Parents, who claim they know what is best for their daughters, see marriage as an ultimate destiny for them and manipulate them with their emotional power into marriage.
The role of parents and siblings in dowry related crimes against their daughters has never been condemned. When a daughter complains of perverse brutality, dowry demands, torture – physical and mental – parents still ‘return’ them to their matrimonial houses with advice to ‘adjust’. They are more worried about the stigma attached to a daughter living at her natal home after marriage than about her physical/mental well being. Do the parents believe that a groom is licensed to kill?
Dowry is a type of marriage payment pre-wedding, wedding or post-wedding. Negotiations for any marital match begin with the girl’s side looking for a groom. Dott is discussed, promised and even handed over to the bride groom or his relatives even before the solemnization of the marriage. If dott is streedhan then why is it handed over to the in-law? It appears to be a bribe. But the parents by desistencia obtain their daughter’s signature to relinquish her rights to her parental property and shut, the doors on her. She is now parayadhan; outsider – both in her parent’s home and if the match does not work out, then in her husband’s as well. So when her marital home becomes a burning hell she is compelled to commit suicide.
Dowry has several forms. The ojem – gifts of sweets, fruits, jewellery, clothes, etc., are annually delivered to the married daughters at festivals. The frilly dowry is the trousseau, which is exhibited by the bride, examined by neighbours and friends, relatives and criticized. The viewers behave like quality/quantity control officers, less spoken about cash the better; it could go up to crores. If I may add the groom is like a stud bull at an auction, available to the highest bidder.
In post liberation Goa there are so many stove bursts claiming the lives of women. It is surprising that despite its upward growth no government, no parent, no husband has taken the stove manufacturing company for stamping the ISI mark on faulty equipments. These deaths though dowry related go unpunished as the hope of surviving the incident keeps women tight lipped or makes them change the story. Our experience shows that parents pay thousands of rupees to their sons-in-law to keep their daughters married, however exploitative the situation is; rather than offer financial support to their daughters to live independently.
The dowry demand keeps alive certain myths. One of them is that, at all stage of a woman’s life she needs the protection of a man. The need for the protection in marriage has made dowry demand an epidemic. We offer a few suggestions to curb this menace:
1. Society has to accept single womanhood, the concept of marriage and how the exorbitant dowry payments degrade the person as well as worth of women, making them commodities in the market.
2. Girls have to be educated about their rights. These rights have to be respected and recognized in their natal as well as marital homes and to choose worthy partners who will respect them as human beings.
3. Neighbours should form support groups, ostracize those who harass women for dowry, report cases to the neighbourhood police.
4. As a deterrent dowry harassment cases should get registered as cognizable offences.
5. The civil registrars should explain the option of keeping properties that belong to the girl before marriage as exclusively hers, and create awareness on the pre-nuptial agreement.
6. Above all both men and women should vow not to give or receive dowry.
Dowry humiliates woman and society. Therefore dowry demand has to stop to empower women.