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Vismaya dowry death – let’s hold accountable the husbands and in-laws who callously murder women when dissatisfied with the dowry, and parents who raise daughters to be ‘good wives and daughters in law’.
*Trigger Warning: This has domestic violence and graphic description of violence against women, and may be triggering for survivors.
On 21st of June, 24-year-old Vismaya Nair was found having seemingly died by suicide in her husband Kiran Kumar’s home in Kollam, Kerala.
As the sordid tale unfolded, details of savage domestic violence started tumbling out. Vismaya’s father Trivikraman Nair accused his son-in-law of harassing and murdering his daughter for money. He alleged that despite having given 800gms of gold, over an acre of land and a car as dowry, the husband, unhappy with the car, demanded 10 lakhs in cash.
Vismaya had been brutally assaulted several times in the course of the marriage of little over a year. One time Kiran Kumar had dragged her by the hair and stomped on her face wearing boots. He’d even broken Vismaya’s brother’s arm when he ostensibly tried to intervene.
The police had been summoned then, but overreaching to protect the criminal, the police, guardians of our safety, the enforcers of law and order, encouraged Vismaya to adjust, compromise.
Vismaya’s mother Sajitha says that she’d asked Vismaya to return home, but Vismaya apparently was anxious about the one thing that women of all ages are taught to worry about- What will people say? The opinion of the non-stakeholders was apparently more important than the child’s life because clearly that was enough for the mother to allow the abuse of her daughter to continue.
The father of the deceased woman, Trivikraman Nair, he who knowingly coughed up dowry to the tune of over 1 crore, despite it being illegal and criminal since the Dowry Prohibition Act was implemented in 1961, says that he was not aware of the trauma his daughter had undergone.
During the rationing era of post emergency, calculating when the gas cylinders would run out of fuel and when to place the order for a new cylinder was an act of great deliberation. It would take about 15 days for fresh cylinders to be delivered and if you miscalculated and ordered the new cylinder too soon, you’d have to give up the old cylinder in exchange for the new still containing precious, expensive leftover fuel in it. But more often than not, women erred on the side of caution and ordered for a refill only after the cylinders were completely emptied out. Which meant that till the gas man came to replace the empty cylinders, our mothers would have to resort to a highly unsafe, highly flammable kerosene stove to cook upon.
The stove had to be pumped vigorously until the kerosene rose up to the wick at which point you had to strike a match to ignite the stove. Pump too little and the stove wouldn’t light up. Pump too much and the stove would explode in your face.
My father would often step in to light the stove for my mother, making the same dismissive joke that would set my mother’s teeth on edge, that he didn’t want to be put behind the slammer for bride burning. You see, the little kerosene stove was the reason for the deaths of many many women in the 80s. ‘Bride burning’ was a term many of us 80s kids are freakishly familiar with, it was that common. Brides were burnt alive because they weren’t monetarily satisfactory. And the crime was explained away as a stove-exploding incident.
And with dad jokes and the advent of safety pressure cookers and safety gas stoves, dowry deaths and burning of brides became normalised, part of the pop-culture. Honestly, if it was not the horror of Gen Z journalists and social media outrage, someone like me may have safely tucked away this latest incident of losing yet another woman to the nexus of capitalism-patriarchy-religion as a statistic.
In the 1990s there was a horrific dowry death case, where a heavily pregnant woman was hacked to pieces, foetus and all, by her husband and in-laws. They were eventually caught and convicted and when a case was made for capital punishment, the courts rejected it saying that death sentences were reserved for the rarest of rare cases and a mere dowry related death no matter how brutal did not qualify.
It is true, according to Indian National Crime Record Bureau, female dowry deaths account for 40 to 50 percent of all female homicides recorded annually in India. In 2012, 8,233 dowry death cases were reported across India. This means a bride was burnt every 90 minutes. If you look at the previous sentence, there is a complete absence of the perpetrator. “A bride was burnt”. By whom, why? Why are such sentences even constructed? Why is a passive voice always adopted to suit the criminals, the husbands and in-laws who callously murder women when dissatisfied with the dowry she brought?
When we reduce a death to an abstract statistic what we forget is that this person, a young woman at the cusp of adulthood was robbed of her life filled with promise systematically by everyone she trusted, her father, her mother, her husband, her in-laws and even the police, who refused to take grievous injury of a human being seriously only because she was a woman and it was a regular thing for a husband to pound on his wife.
In bemoaning the fate of the Vismaya we forget the sinister face of her entitled sadistic husband who was never taught empathy or boundaries neither by his parents nor by the system, her complicit in-laws, her criminal dowry-giving father, the police. Her husband will (perhaps) face a lengthy trial at the end of which in all likelihood he will be released for lack of evidence, the conviction rate for dowry deaths stands at a low 34.7%. And we will forget the dimpled face of Vismaya, because in 90 minutes another Vismaya will drop dead. Just statistics, after all.
I’m done discussing dead daughters. I want to talk about your sociopath sons who kill them for sport. Don’t ask me why my daughter stayed in that abusive home, ask your son why he abused her, dragged her by the hair, kicked her, beat her black and blue. Hacked her to bits.
I’m done discussing raped daughters. Let’s talk about your sons who think it’s okay to make rape jokes or laugh at them. Your sons who objectify my daughters on the streets and make it unsafe for them. Your sons who are rapists sometimes of their wives and daughters. Your sons who you raised to think are entitled to be paid for their existence. Your sons who are ugly monsters in human form. Your sons who harrass women on the streets, on social media, in their homes and offices.
I’m done discussing the MeToo movement. I want to discuss YesAllMen. Account for the times you made your women colleagues uncomfortable. Chose a man for the job over a better qualified woman, chose a woman for her looks.
I’m done discussing traumatised and abused children. I’m done telling them about stranger-danger and good touch-bad touch. I want to discuss your sons who think children are sexual objects and punching bags. Your sons who make life living hell for their children, teach their sons to become predators. Your sons who make wars, who rape, who loot, who plunder, who assault, who abuse, who violate, who never listen, who mansplain, who ask for dowry, who objectify, who are the reason half the earth’s population haven’t been out on the streets after dark.
Let’s discuss your sons.
Image source: YouTube
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