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On February 25, Ayesha Banu, 24, a resident of Ahmedabad, recorded a video message earlier than she jumped into the Sabarmati river and ended her life. Ayesha stated she was going through harassment for dowry from her husband.

Every week earlier than, Rashika Agarwal, 25, fell to her dying at her in-laws’ place in a complicated locality in Kolkata. Her household alleged that she was tortured by her husband and others, and that they’d given Rs 7 crore as dowry.

Stories of harassment and deaths over dowry lower throughout class, monetary, instructional and non secular limitations. Though dowry was made unlawful many years in the past, the crime continues to be hardly ever reported to the police. The apply neither triggers mass outrage nor public conversations, until perhaps when it has led to deaths, as has occurred in instances of Rashika and Ayesha.

An informal search on the web will throw up such numerous horrifying information items as these: In 2020, a 40-year-old man in Ahmedabad was arrested for sexually molesting his 14-year-old daughter and torturing his spouse for dowry; In 2019, a 27-year-old girl from Kerala was starved to dying over dowry. According to police, the girl was denied meals for 3 weeks, and weighed solely 20 kg on the time of her dying; In 2014, one Neha Yadav was set on fireplace by her in-laws and the 29-year-old succumbed to her accidents.

Normalised as “gifts to the bride”, the principles of the sport within the Indian marriages haven’t modified through the years.

Aishwarya, a former journalist, who received married to an IIT graduate not too long ago, says: “My parents gave Rs 14 lakh as dowry, besides jewellery and a luxury car. There was no protest, just some muffled negotiations, when things were being finalised between the two families. I had no say. The fact is, asking for and giving dowry remains covertly and overtly rampant in our society.”

Sheeba, a 30-year-old company worker, says some “gifts were exchanged” in her marriage. In the seven years that she stayed married, her mother-in-law would taunt her day by day. “She would say you’ve gotten include luggage filled with your individual private stuff, par dowry mein toh kuch leke nahi aayi‘.”

Had she given them ‘dowry’, Sheeba thinks her inter-faith marriage would have lasted. “I feel I would have been treated better.” She walked out of the wedding when her husband began to abuse her bodily.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) 2019 information for IPC instances, a lady turns into a sufferer of dowry dying roughly each one hour. Additionally, she turns into a sufferer of cruelty by her husband or in-laws each 4 minutes. The Delhi Police web site mentions there have been 94 dowry-deaths final yr within the capital. According to an earlier NCRB information, in 2010, India reported the best variety of dowry deaths with eight,391 instances.

Origins of dowry

The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, defines dowry because the gifting away of any property or “valuable security” by folks “directly or indirectly” concerned in a wedding or “by parents of either party” in connection to the alliance. This, nevertheless, doesn’t embrace dower or mahr wherein case the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) applies to the folks concerned.

In her guide Dowry Murder, celebrated historian Veena Talwar Oldenburg explores the basis of this apply. “In precolonial India, dowry was not a “problem” however a help for girls: a mark of their social standing and a security web.”

The ghastly nature the apply has come to imagine might be traced again to the colonial occasions when rights to personal lands have been sanctioned, subsequently making the Indian male “the dominant legal subject”. Thus, sons have been most well-liked to daughters, largely in agrarian Punjab. “Sons were the key to survival and prosperity in the relentlessly agrarian Punjab under the British,” Oldenburg writes, which in impact, raised their worth and infused a way of competitiveness of their marriage ceremony proposals. With the variety of eligible males being handful, ‘moms of daughters knew that a good dowry was now the web to safe “the catch.”’

“The idea that a groom’s family could make demands slowly infiltrated other traditional gift-giving occasions re-served by parents for their married daughters and their children.” This pattern turned worse and went on to be related to violence and suicide of brides.

Portrayal in cinema

In the 2014 movie 2 States — based mostly on Chetan Bhagat’s guide by the identical identify — the apply is alluded to in a brief sequence largely to determine the righteousness of the feminine lead. When at a marriage, Alia Bhatt’s Ananya finds out the groom’s household has demanded dowry, she launches right into a tirade. The occasion, nevertheless, is short-lived, the grotesque implication of the apply curtailed by the groom’s early realisation.

The problem is explored extra deftly in Made In Heaven, a 2019 collection centering round two marriage ceremony planners. Titled Price of Love, the episode exhibits the impunity with which dowry is practised throughout class, with the bride strolling out of the marriage venue after the groom’s household demanded an enormous sum in dowry. In the Rajkumar Santoshi-directed Lajja (2001), a marriage sequence involves an finish with Mahima Chaudhry giving a convincing ‘say-no-to-dowry’ efficiency.

These situations of denouncing dowry in popular culture could also be encouraging, however they nonetheless fail approximating the morbidity it entails in actual life.

Fighting the menace

National Commission for Women chairperson Rekha Sharma says. “Some people don’t know it is a crime. Secondly, families, instead of stressing on education and financial independence of women, just give dowry, especially when it comes to property — whose division must happen equally between sons and daughters. They think that by giving dowry, they have equalised it,” she tells indianexpress.com.

“There needs to be simplicity in marriages. When you are spending on your daughters’ education, give them the opportunity to earn their own money; that needs to be taught.”

Sharma explains the perfect authorized plan of action could be to strategy the police. “Should they refuse to listen, there are bodies like NCW that should be approached.”

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