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images-9Well, guys I think this is a two blog week, I have for sometime been researching dowry death’s in India and this seemed a good time to write an article. It seems a natural progression from my previous post on the poor treatment of women in the world today.

DOWRY DEATH’S 

The official definition is that it describes the death’s of young women who are murdered or driven to suicide by continuous harassment, torture and even murder  by their husband’s and in-law’s , in an attempt to extort an increased dowry.

images-5Dowry death’s are found in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iran.  India is number one in the rankings of reported cases.  For the purposes of this article, I will be focussing on India. In 2007 1 woman was killed every four hours, and if that isn’t shocking enough, the numbers have been on the increase, as of 2014 it is now 1 woman every hour!

Official figure from India’s Crime Records Bureau reveal that 8,233 women were killed in so called dowry deaths last year. Remember these are only the reported cases….

Payment of dowries are illegal, however, they remain widespread across the class, caste and educational system.  Demands are becoming more insistent and expensive in fact. To give you one example of requests :-

One of the dowry deaths was Pravartika Gupta, who was burned to death in her bedroom as she slept next to her one year old daughter.  She had been threatened by her in-laws because her family couldn’t keep up with their schedule of payments.  They had agreed to pay £15,000 cash and a Honda car for their son-in-law’s parents.  The in-laws had suddenly demanded that Pravatika’s family buy them an apartment.

images-6Despite THE DOWRY PROHIBITION ACT 1961- which made giving or receiving a dowry as a recognisable and non-bailable offence. The punishment can be up to six months in prison or a fine of £50. An amendment to the original act, means that if a young woman dies an unnatural death within 7 years of marriage, it is officially classed as a dowry death.

The practice is rampant and entrenched in Indian society. 80% of bank loans in India are to go towards  marriage costs and dowry’s. Let’s be honest the punishment is not severe enough!

According to the Bureau’s latest figures, charges were brought to 94% of the cases, but the conviction rate was just 32%. In cruelty cases the conviction rate is 15%.

Dowry death is just one category of violence against women in India, the others are rape, bride burning, eve teasing and acid throwing. ( I will let you look those up – not pretty reading)

images-10The dowry demands can be directly linked to higher rates of abortion of female foetuses and infanticide also. The cost of dowries have risen enormously and the cost of abortions has dropped to as little as £25.  It is also partially responsible for the gender ratio of 940 women to 1000 men and rising.

The pressure of a growing culture of consumerism means dowry demands now include cars, appliances, cash and property.  The average Indian spends one-fifth of his wealth on a daughters wedding.

Dowry demands do not end with the wedding, Indian wives find themselves in a hostage situation, facing sustained and horrific abuse from their in-laws and spouse, ranging from verbal abuse, violence and murder.

Varsha Ramakrishnan, a doctor at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, began documenting stories of dowry violence for 2 years, she said:-

I realised that the female burn wards at the hospital were always crowded to maximum capacity, and the male wards were empty.  Some of the women she met had been burned for as little as 5,000 Rupees (£55) and they had suffered burns over 90% of their bodies

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Despite data that indicates a woman is killed for a dowry every hour in India, the High Court has recently made it harder for women to report abuse.  They seem to think dowry related complaints are a “weapon for disgruntled wives” to use against their husbands.  There were 197,762 arrested made last year with only 15% resulting in an actual conviction.  What makes matters worse is these women have to continue to live with their husbands and families after filing the complaint. This of course incurs more hardship for the woman.

There are columns of dowry deaths in the Indian Times EVERY day. I picked out the 25th March 2015 to take a look, and found half a dozen stories that day. Here are three :-

  • GHAZIABAD – 25 year old woman allegedly committed suicide by consuming poison on 20th March 2015. her family from Handhwar say it is a case of dowry death.  The husband and 5 family members have been arrested.
  • GHAZIABAD – A Noida head constable and his son were arrested on 19th March 2015 for the alleged dowry death of his 26 year old daughter-in-law in Vijaynagar.  Neeja’s family alleged she was killed by her in-law’s.  the in-law’s however, say she committed suicide by hanging herself from the ceiling light in her bedroom.  Neeja had been married for 8 months
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  • NAGPUR- Rajesh Kuwade, a chemical engineer, was arrested on 21st March 2015 for alleged involvement in mental and physical harassment of his wife.  Vanita, who ended her life along with their 23 month old daughter, Mimansha.  Four of her in-law’s including her husband have been arrested.

In Hyderabad alone, there were 145 dowry deaths confirmed last year.  Similarly kidnapping cases have gone from 130 to 356.  Missing cases of children and young women are now treated as kidnapping.

AWARENESS CAMPAIGNS

images-8There are awareness campaigns out there and have resulted in some success, but they are just the tip of the iceberg and we need the government to take more stringent action. Here are two success stories, but they are few and far between and the dowry deaths are on the increase

  • In 2010 Rani Tiwari, made a secret video recording of her prospective in-law’ demanding £5,000 from her family in dowry, she filed the case with the police, using the video footage.  Tiwari received over 42 proposals of marriage from families who admired her courage and resourcefulness.
  • In Kolkata, a 27 year old man disowned his family when they asked his future bride for a dowry – choosing to marry her under police protection instead.

Sadly I wish these stories were the norm, but the sad truth is the world is silent on the secret shame of how India chooses to betray its women. It takes the voices of women across the world to bring this to the attention of the politician’s. No matter what their religion these women are our sister’s and we cannot let this stand unchallenged!

INDIA IS THE LARGEST DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY IN THE WORLD, WE SHOULD JUDGE IT BY HOW IT TREATS ITS WOMEN !

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