Tuesday, August 2, 2011

random thoughts... on dowry deaths

The other day one of my friend Anagha came home crying inconsolably .. after pacifying her for long time, all I could gather was that her sister was no more… her sister was burnt to death for a want of dowry… I went numb ..

… Media everyday is replete with news related to dowry deaths. Dowry is a sad reality of Indian society, and the cruelty with which a young bride is murdered is heart wrenching. According to the unofficial estimates put the number of deaths at 25,000 women a year, with many more left maimed and scarred as a result of attempts on their lives.

In discussions and debates on dowry deaths, the focus usually is on discriminatory attitude of in-laws, economic dependence of women, patriarchal attitude of men, and change in legal system etc. What often gets overlooked is the role of victims’ parents and her extended family.

Parents of the victims lose no time and hold in laws or husband as prime actors in their daughter’s death. In most of the cases, the in laws are guilty and they should be punished. Yet, all this cannot absolve the victim’s parents for the passive role they play in their daughter’s death.

When a woman finds herself in such a situation, she usually confides to her parents and the extended family about the mental and physical violence she is facing at her in laws home. Now, if the parents had a fair idea about their daughter’s condition why do they not act earlier? Why do they not offer her protection and the much needed emotional security? Why the girl had to go through all insult, humiliation and violence instead of seeking haven at her family residence? Is it not their responsibility to stand by the daughter? Does their responsibility end with the marriage? Are they not indirectly responsible for their daughter taking this drastic step?

In patriarchal society like India, parents often consider daughter as ‘other’s property’ and therefore a burden which must be shed off as soon as possible. Once the girl has left for ‘her’ home they consider that have fulfilled all of their responsibilities towards her. The saying in Marathi states ‘ubhi ja advi ye’ literally means that a woman enters her in laws home after marriage and comes out of it only when she dies. The society puts pressure on women by attributing their ’place’ only in husband’s home. Parents yields to social pressure and they too reinforce the same.

This perception towards daughters is not predominant only among the ‘poor’, ‘rural’, and ‘illiterate’ people, but it is very much a part of the psyche of ‘urban’, ‘educated’ and ‘well to do’ people.

So when parents come to know about their daughter suffering, they invite the daughter to stay over, counsel her but only to coax her to go back and adjust with her in laws. The daughter too leaves the home and never come back understanding completely that she can no longer can rely on her parents’ for any support. So nowhere to go, she embraces death.

Education, economic independence and imparting life skills are important for any woman to live with dignity, but what is equally important is to give a daughter emotional security that come what may, her family will stand by her. It is important to reiterate that their daughter is precious for them and they love her. If this happens, not only there will be dip in such crimes but also married women will live with dignity.


  1. Parents of that girl act likethe police in films... LATE

  2. I cannot express how sad this makes me. In the United States, a marriage means families expand so that the girl grows with the addition of the boy's family and the boy grows with the addition of the girl's family. Each time I read about such an incident in the newspaper, my heart aches for the girl. Although I am not a Hindu nor an Indian, my husband's family has accepted me with open arms and never expected anything from me or my family. It sounds like this makes me very lucky!