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The death of a young woman from Ahmedabad has people across the country furious and saddened. Dowry deaths are still a sad reality even today!
This post was originally written on the Women’s Web Hindi channel and was translated for the English site.
Trigger warning: This post contains details of suicide and harassment which may be triggering to certain readers.
For the last few days, a video of a young woman named Ayesha Banu Makrani of Ahmedabad has gone viral. A private bank employee and a final year student of MA Economics, Ayesha addresses her father in the video.
She tells him that she’s tired of fighting with her own family and is giving up. Ayesha confesses that her feelings about the issues with her husband and in-laws while putting on a brave smile.
She says that while she loves her husband, he wants his freedom, thus the case her father has filed against Arif Khan and his family should be withdrawn. Ayesha also says that love should be two-sided and that if only one person is in love, the relationship doesn’t work out.
Soon after uploading the video on the Internet, Ayesha ended her life. The video also has the audio clip of her last conversation with her parents. They are heard requesting her to go back home. However, she soon ended her life.
Twenty-three-year-old Ayesha married Arif Khan, a private mining supervisor from Rajasthan in 2018. The groom’s family demanded Rs. 1.5 lakh in dowry which Ayesha’s parents fulfilled. However, their demands didn’t stop there.
When the demands weren’t met, Arif Khan and his family reportedly tortured Ayesha and even physically harassed her for ‘not bringing enough dowry.’ She was living with her parents in Ahmedabad since March 2020 after Arif Khan stopped speaking to her.
According to the report in The Indian Express, Ayesha had a 72-minute long conversation with Arif where he didn’t try to stop her from taking her life. Instead, he demanded that she make a video so he isn’t held responsible for it.
Arif Khan was arrested on Tuesday by police in Jalore, Rajasthan. He was booked under the Indian Penal Code Section 306 for abetment to suicide at the Sabarmati Riverfront West police station.
In a society like ours, it is very difficult for a girl to trust someone completely. However, I believe, when she opens herself and loves someone she may be willing to go to great lengths for that person. This was probably the reason that compelled Ayesha to take her own life.
People who have seen the video are sharing it with teary eyes while talking about the diabolical psyche of our society. A society and beliefs that left 23-year-old Ayesha with barely any choice.
In 2017, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) recorded over 7000 dowry deaths. The death toll linked to dowry has only risen from 19 a day in 2001 to 21 a day in 2016.
Legally, the dowry system has been abolished by The Constitution of India in 1961. However, the patriarchal society is responsible for fabricating the norms that give men a higher stature than women. Thus, making the customs so deep-rooted in the country.
Our society has a fixed ‘rate-card’ for the boys depending on their education, job and salary. The boys get an equivalent amount of dowry in cash or kind or both depending on this card during, before and after their wedding.
Due to the prevailing gender inequality in our society, parents of the girls often succumb to the demands of the groom in return for taking care of their daughters. Does this mean that the bride’s parents have to pay a price for their daughters’ honour in their marital homes?
The system of dowry is an age-old tradition in our country. Despite reminding people that both giving and receiving dowry is a crime, they waive if off by calling it a ‘tradition’ in marriages. Even the ‘educated’ families accept this practice wholeheartedly. They do so either by their own will or succumb to the pressures of society or to avoid criticism and fear of being exiled from their communities.
The dowry system is a major curse to society and is also responsible for the gender inequality in our country. Most of our society is yet to actually believe that dowry is simply a crime and not a part of our culture or tradition.
While we need to have these elaborate discussions over the dowry-deaths, merely talking about it won’t really solve the problem. We need to hold hands and support each other in ending this curse that is destroying the lives of so many young girls.
Parents of every girl need to save money, but not for her dowry, for her education and to help her grow and learn. We need to make our daughters independent, both financially and emotionally so they do not depend on anyone for their basic rights.
At the same time, we need to establish the fact that women are not ‘incomplete’ if they remain unmarried. After all, isn’t an unmarried but happy daughter better than a married but unhappy daughter?
Picture credits: Screenshot from the video shared by Ayesha
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