Dowry deaths: Indian brides are not for sale!

Photo caption: Sooraj allegedly killed his wife using a snake after her parents refused to meet his dowry demands.

Dowry demand and its consequences is a burning issue in Indian society. If the girl’s parents cannot satisfy the dowry demands after marriage, the bride is killed or forced to commit suicide. The problem of dowry is experienced by all sections of our society. In India, dowry seems to be the fundamental right of the groom’s family. Parents give gifts in the form of jewellery, cars and money to ensure the well-being of their daughter, but the groom’s family demands more after marriage resulting in mental and physical agony to the bride and finally suicide or even murder.

The recent gruesome murder for dowry happening in a literate state like Kerala is shocking. A young woman and mother of a one-year-old died after being bitten by a snake in her sleep. Investigations were instantly directed towards her husband as she was being harassed for dowry after marriage. Statistical data shows that Kerala reports around 20 dowry deaths every year. According to State Crime Records Bureau, 203 dowry death cases were filed in the state in the past 11 years and  an average of  two women die every month over the issue. Previous year only the state witnessed another dowry death where the woman was starved to death for over 2 years by her husband and in-laws.

It is alarming   that India has the highest number of dowry-related deaths in the world according to Indian National Crime Records Bureau. Every day, at least 20 women become a victim of dowry death, and the annual figures go well above 7,000 deaths. As per experts, several cases are not reported and the actual death could be three or four times the official statistics. Studies show that dowry issues cause 1.4 deaths per year per 100,000 women in India. Some recent surveys have shown that in 2018, around 27,281 dowry deaths were  reported in India. In addition, cruelty by husbands and in-laws was reported in more than 2 lakh cases in the same year. All these incidents show that the mindset of the people has not changed   despite laws banning the evil practice. .According to Section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), “where a bride is within 7 years of her marriage is killed and it is shown that soon before her death, she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband, or in connection with any demand for dowry, such death shall be called ‘dowry death’ and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death.”  As per this section, a person to be termed guilty only if the crime has to be ‘proved’ or ‘shown.’   The awful fact is that many times, the crime isn’t proved since the murder or harassment is concealed as an accident, and the criminals escape easily. The National Crimes Records Bureau data says 87 per cent of the dowry deaths in the country are pending in courts. More than 83 per cent of the cases registered under Dowry Prohibition Act are pending trial. It also states that police have a charge sheet around 93.7 per cent of the accused, of which only 34.7 percent have been convicted.

It should be noted that the richer sections of the society practice the dowry system to get a better groom. Seeing this the middle class/ poor sections of the society are also forced to follow the system and debt everything they earned through their hard work to get a better groom. 

It is high time that we need a change in the attitude and mindset of the people about dowry. Educating children from an early age about the importance of gender equality could be a meaningful start in that direction. We should treat our daughters equally without any discrimination. Educate and encourage the girls to pursue a career of their choice instead of giving huge dowry. This is the best gift any parent can give their daughter. Make awareness among girls to think that they would not allow their parents to suffer huge debts for their marriage. Young men should take a decision that they would not live on the money of another person’s effort and also   take a decision not to become marketable commodities sold by their parents. Stop giving dowry and start valuing our daughters first, so that others know their value.

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