The burning issue

dowry

Dowry may sound archaic in today’s world but it’s a growing concern, says SANGEETA YADAV

·         July 3, 2015: A 26-year-old woman was beaten to death by her in-laws for want of dowry. According to a complaint lodged by her brother Lalit Saxena, at about 9 pm, his sister called him up and said that her husband Sanjay Shrivastav, a resident of Faridabad, and her in-laws were demanding Rs 5 lakh and she was being beaten. The next morning, the woman’s brother-in-law called up Lalit to inform him that his sister was not well. When Lalit reached her house, he found her dead. A case was registered under section 498A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty), 304B (dowry death) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the IPC.

·         October 4, 2015: Twenty four-year-old Meenu was allegedly killed by her husband, Dheeraj, and in-laws for dowry in Faridabad. Meenu was found hanging from the ceiling of her room following which her father Tejram filed a police complaint claiming that he had paid her in-laws Rs 50,000 about two months back but on September 30, they made another demand of Rs 1 lakh. A case has been registered against Dheeraj and his parents under Section 498A, 304B and 34 of the IPC.

·         October 15, 2015: A 26-year-old woman was tortured by her in-laws for dowry and raped multiple times by her brother-in-law in Faridabad. According to the complaint filed by the woman, her harassment was physical as well as mental. Her husband’s cousin even allegedly raped her several times during this period with his knowledge.

While dowry may sound like an archaic demand, it accounts for 32.4 per cent of all crimes against women in India. More than 9,700 cases of atrocities against women, including dowry harassments and deaths, domestic violence, outraging the modesty of women, property dispute, rape etc. were registered since April this year. According to shaadicares.org, one woman dies every day because of dowry. If this is not enough, five women commit suicide daily because of dowry disputes considering that an average Indian household gives over Rs 30,000 as dowry.

The dowry menace is not just in the lower middle class and middle class. There has been a steep rise in the cases coming from the upper middle class as well where the demands are camouflaged under the guise of gifts.

“Streedhan (dowry) is an age-old practice followed to make the bride feel financially independent. But this practice has turned a killer with the groom and his family demanding money, gifts and other favours, leading the mental and physical torture on women. To reduce this menace, we need to empower women by educating them and making them independent. This reduces the scope for dowry harassment and deaths. If asked for dowry,  directly or indirectly, the bride’s family should say ‘no’ to the alliance. Not even a small demand should be entertained. Effective implementation of the law is the need of the hour, especially in terms of investigation of the case,” Jyotika Kalra, a Supreme Court advocate says.

Kalra recently filed a PIL seeking common guidelines for all State police departments. Data show that around 24,771 dowry deaths were reported in past three years in the county.

“Dowry Prohibition (DP) Act is in place since 1961. It penalises both the giving and the taking of dowry but nobody takes it seriously, be it prosecution or the complainant. One reason could be that the law can be counterproductive. In our capitalist consumer society it is almost impossible to penalise dowry. In Vikas vs State of Rajasthan 2002 , the SC opined that the deep rooted social evil of dowry requires to be controlled by effective implementation of the DP Act. Section 498 A was introduced in 1983 and 304 B (dowry death) in 1986. 498 A was introduced in response to death of Kanchan Bala on March 17, 1979 due to 100 per cent burns and two days before her death the demand for scooter was repeated by her husband,” Kalra tells you.

Another reason for high dowry deaths can be attributed to the fact that a large number of dowry cases go unreported. “Most of them get reported when the woman is dead. The law says that we should allot many women police officers at every police station, the police authorities should keep a check on the families in their district and report about any dispute they get to know, especially in the case of married women. It’s good that we have programmes like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao and many others that empower women and girl children but we should also have a really strong anti-dowry campaign that can reach out to every family to prevent dowry deaths,” Maneka Gandhi, Minister for Women and Child Development,  says.

(The article was published in the Pioneer Newspaper – http://www.dailypioneer.com/sunday-edition/sunday-pioneer/special/the-burning-issue.html)

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