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Nothing Can Buy Back A Daughter’s Life So Save Them From The Indignity Of Dowry Deaths

It's only after dowry deaths that we wake up, every time. If the woman in question had broken her marriage because of the obvious problems, we'd have said she didn't 'adjust enough'.

It’s only after dowry deaths that we wake up, every time. If the woman in question had broken her marriage because of the obvious problems, we’d have said she didn’t ‘adjust enough’.

Trigger Warning: This has domestic violence and dowry harassment and may be triggering for a survivor.

Archana 24, wife of Suresh, a plumber by profession was found at night with burn injuries- her marital family had demanded share in property as dowry.

Vismaya, a 24-year-old Ayurveda student wife of Kumar, an Inspector with the motor vehicles department was found hanging, she was harassed over demands for a luxury car as the one gifted to her was worth just Rs 10 lakh, her parents had gifted their daughter over 100 sovereigns of gold and one-acre land, too.

Suchitra, 19 year old, newly wed woman, married this March to Army officer Vishnu, was found dead at the house of her husband in Alappuzha under suspicious circumstances. 

Death of 3 women married to men from 3 different social classes – a plumber, a government official, and an army man, but all of them united in greed and violent mindsets.

Why the 3 dowry deaths won’t shake our conscience

We’re a dead society if violence and atrocities against women are normalized to become a way of life and remain as headliners for newspapers or police records, debates for primetime shows and political parties as  if nothing could shake our collective conscience anymore.

Dowry has no religious or cultural connotation to it as no prayer book, mythology or religious text subscribes to paying bridal price for a boy in holy matrimony. If people have gone ahead it’s only because it’s easy to control society in the name of ‘religion’ and ‘tradition’.

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Yet, dowry cuts across all religions, castes and communities, and is rampant among all in the name of roka, dahej, hunda, streedhan,… where huge amount of cash, gold and jewellery, vehicles, property, land are traded in marriage. In fact, it’s the most convenient and established way for a boy’s family to get rich and every ‘boy’ has a price tag in the bazaar be it canteen boy, professionals, sarkari babu, businessman, or politician. Nothing’s ever free in a ‘love’ or ‘arranged’ marriage and it’s a misconception that it doesn’t happen among elite or educated class.

Why are women less valued, wanted, or loved in any society?

Is it because we’re less educated or not aware about our rights? Is it because we lack family and social support for our cause? Or is it because we’re not worth anything but our wombs and easily replaceable? Because men accused of the most heinous or gruesome crimes – dowry deaths – are easily forgiven enough to get a girl, however widows or divorcees have a hard time getting a second chance in life.

Many theories abound as to how the women in question “should have handled their dowry problems”, unfortunately, we always see wisdom in the hindsight – had the women jumped ship, they would have been accused of “not adjusting enough” as rarely are the men held responsible for breaking marriages…it’s always about HER.

So how do we overcome the dowry issues?

  • Parents – break free from ruthless traditions, rituals, and customs in name of dowry. No amount of money, gold, or  property will ensure your daughter’s happiness so stop the ostentation and vulgar display of wealth in the name of celebration. You don’t need to weigh your daughter in gold to prove your social status, so keep it decent.
  • Empower your daughters with education and economic independence to find their rightful place in society, being self reliant is a great confidence booster than dumping money in her bank accounts or transferring property papers to the son-in-law, as there’s no guarantee that he’ll love her more for it.
  • Stop the practice of fixing marriages with dowry. Remember that greed and avarice can never be satisfied, it’s a pathological problem and the more you feed the more they’ll demand.
  • Instill courage and confidence in your  daughters to stand up for their rights. The reason why dowry didn’t die was because girls fear divorce or breaking down of a marriage. Drag the perpetrators to the cleaners and mark the change happen in a few years.
  • Prepare prenuptial agreements with terms and conditions to protect your life and property. Nobody can predict the future, so however good or ‘decent’ a ‘boy’ might appear, draw up your will and necessary legal documents well beforehand.
  • Discuss the no dowry clause at the outset in case of arrangements and contracts. Like Kerala marriages have a contract or ‘karaar’ that’s a binding document read publicly and signed by both the parties to the agreement during the formal engagement, so it’s well advised to include the ‘no dowry clause’ in the agreement for legal protection.
  • Dowry is never one time thing, but a life long obligation by way of gifts, money and property transfers during birth of a child, celebrations and functions. So in several cases men trick the women into getting pregnant soon after marriage as women are unlikely to break free for fear of social castigation especially if there are children involved, and again the girl’s parents are caught up in a viscous cycle.
  • Stop demonizing divorce and putting an emotional burden on women for keeping the marriage going, because despite all that literacy and financial independence if women are bogged down by patriarchal societies, there’s no escaping.
  • Emotional liberation is just as important as economic independence. Even women who’re successful and financially independent are victims of abuse and violence because they cling on their relationship kind of Stockholm’s syndrome and continue to suffer indignities so all those laws and enactments are meaningless if women are unwilling to fight for themselves.

Some questions the parents must ask of themselves…

Can matrimony be considered holy, if the sacred fire is ultimately going to consume your daughters through dowry deaths? Get your daughters out of the sacrificial pit before it’s too late.

Why should the mangalsutra or tali be holy or pavitra, if it’s going to ultimately strangle her to death, rather set her free?

Why do you want a ‘marriage until death do us apart’ for your daughter, if she’s is living with the killer himself?

Why do we’d rather be saving the marriage, when we should be saving our daughters, instead?

Your daughter is irreplaceable and invaluable, she deserves her rightful dignity in life and death then why should divorce be more shameful than an undignified marriage where a woman is killed, burnt, strangulated for mere money?

Ask yourself. Today.

Image source: YouTube – screenshots from Mathrubhumi News

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Bharati Muralidhar

Writing is soulspeak will dare to dream own up my piece of sky..mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend we all are.. but, being your own person even more. read more...

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