Acid attack on woman for dowry reveals ugly face of Indian culture

Dowry harassment is the last thing that concerns the headline-hogging politicians.

 |  5-minute read |   21-04-2017
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Given the noise over triple talaq and how valiantly and urgently everyone — from the prime minister, the Hindu Mahasabha and various Muslim clerics —  is debating to save the Muslim women from instantaneous divorce, dowry harassment is the last thing that concerns the headline-hogging coterie.

So, when a 36-year-old government teacher in Uttar Pradesh was doused with acid by her in-laws and husband over dowry demand, no one deemed it necessary to raise an uproar over the malevolence.  

Ghaziabad resident Sangeeta Verma, who suffered more than 90 per cent burns and is in critical condition, said the attack followed years of harassment and torture over dowry.

Sadly, such attacks and resultant deaths have been a common practice in India. Yet, the urgency to tackle the problem hasn't crept in yet.

dowry_042117031217.jpgHow has the abolishment of dowry actually stopped the tradition from being practised? (Picture for representational purpose)

In April alone, there have been a number of incidents where women were either forced to end their lives or killed over dowry.

On April 15, a 29-year-old woman was allegedly poisoned by her in-laws at Daulatabad village in Pataudi.

A few days before that, a woman, had committed suicide in Hyderabad after being "harassed" by her husband and in-laws for dowry. Before killing herself, she recorded a selfie video, narrating how she was harassed and abused by her in-laws.

That was preceded by the alleged suicide of a 22-year-old from Uttar Pradesh's Ghaziabad. The woman's brother, however, claimed she was killed by her husband for dowry. He also told police that the woman was being harassed by her in-laws for the past few months.

Just yesterday (April 20), a man unable to arrange money for his daughter's dowry killed himself in Maharashtra's Latur district.

Ironically, a case of accidental death was registered at the Aurad Shahjani police station. The suicide came within a week of another young girl in Latur killing herself to lessen the "burden" on her poor father.

There is no dearth of such reports — sadly with each passing day these deaths remain only in police records, and not public conscience.

In a society that proudly lives in its regressive past, there is little surprise that India is conveniently torturing and killing their women for dowry in the name of tradition.

Although requesting a dowry was outlawed in India in 1961 (Dowry Prohibition Act), there is very little to prove that it has been of any help.

Recently, Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu said that Islam should ban the practice of triple talaq, and compared this with Hindu reformers initiatives to end sati and dowry.

“Hindu society changed a lot. We abolished child marriage, dowry and sati. I believe that there should be a healthy discussion within Muslim society regarding this issue and that they should chalk out a solution,” PTI quoted Naidu as saying.

The minister perhaps is not aware that the abolishment (of dowry) has not stopped people from taking/giving dowry and killing for it.

The statistics say there were 24,771 dowry deaths in India between 2012 and 2014, more than 760 deaths in 2015, and these figures do not even include all the cases of dowry harassment that did not result in death.

So, how has the abolishment of dowry actually stopped the tradition from being practised?

We need to understand that a prohibition order is not enough to eradicate something that is so deep entrenched in a society which is known for its regressive customs and practices.

Moreover, women often face difficulty in reporting such harassment to police because of societal pressure, public shame and disbelief and vilification that Section 498A is often misused by disgruntled wives/women as a weapon against their in-laws unnecessarily.

Most women who complain of dowry harassment are first forcefully counselled and asked to "give another chance" to their marriage (by her parents and even law-enforcing agencies), which further encourages the perpetrators.

Apart from greed, there is another major reason for prevalence of dowry in Indian society — we are not ashamed of it and rather take pride in the practice, something that many a times is flaunted by the bride, her parents and the groom and his family as a status symbol and given/taken publicly without any remorse.

Recently, a tea stall owner from Bhiwandi in Alwar district, Rajasthan, was served with an income tax notice after video of him allegedly distributing Rs 1 crore for dowry on account of his daughters' wedding circulated on social media.

Most parents of women (even if not willingly) never complain while paying dowry, but go to the police only after their daughters get killed after more such demands from her in-laws and husband.

There can be no overnight and miraculous solution to dowry or transformation to the criminal mentality of our people. Can we expect India and Indians to respect a woman and value her life, and not just the amount of dowry that she brings in? 

Also read: Beaten, burnt and left to die, this dowry survivor has a message for the world

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