The Horrible Truth behind the Dowry System

Imagine your life being worth the price of a dishwasher and a motorcycle. Imagine being sold to your husband like cattle going to the slaughterhouse. That is the cruel reality for women in India. Heinous atrocities go on every day in our world, and one of the worst crimes against humanity is the Dowry System, more specifically the Dowry System in India. Dowry is the payment of cash or some kind of gift given to the bridegroom along with the bride. The Dowry system is believed to put a great financial burden on the bride’s family, and is a major reason why families in India favour having male children over female children. Thousands of murders, beatings and rapes are attributed to the Dowry System; sex-selective abortions, female infanticide and female feticide are very prevalent in Indian society where women are considered second class citizens, and property of men due to the Dowry System.

From 1999 to 2003 there were 7,000 reported Dowry related deaths in India (yet estimated 25,000-100,000 deaths in reality), and 50,000 cases of mental and physical torture. Men, and their families, feel entitled to their wife’s dowry, and when the demands are not met, they react with violence; murdering, beating, raping, and throwing acid on their wives. Even if the demands are met, women are still subjected to extreme acts of injustice and inequality. Dowry is one of the main factors of domestic violence in India. The Dowry System has been illegal in India since 1961, but tradition and the growth in consumerism has causes the Dowry System to gain momentum, instead of fizzling out. Farhana Aketer Eva aged 22, was tortured to death by her husband for refusing to bring dowry money from her parents. Innocent women in India are dying every day because of the unspeakable acts of injustice done in the name of the Dowry System. Arzina Akhter, 20, wife of Faruk Hossain, was stabbed to death by her husband over her dowry on September 5th 2014. The world would like to think that violence against women in India regarding dowry is slowly but surely getting better, but that is simply not the truth. In Karnataka the number of dowry deaths has risen in the past 3 years, and in the city of Bangalore the number has stayed the same. Minister for Women and Child Welfare, Umashree, has stated that dowry deaths have not come down in the state and said, “We need more time to control this.” Many cases of dowry deaths and violence go undetected, as the population in India keeps growing, and many people feel that it is completely justifiable to murder your wife over unpaid dowry. India cannot be entirely blamed for this nightmarish travesty. During the Colonial period in India, the British made it the only legal way to get married in India, making the Dowry System mandatory. Millions of people in India still believe that the Dowry System should still be used today, and will do anything to meet their greed-filled ways. Dowry is deep-rooted into the cultural identity of many Indians and is considered a tradition that should never be broken.

Female feticide has murdered over 50 million girls in the past century in India alone. The sex ratio of females to males has been highly disputed in India, with some parts of India being said to have a 491:1000 ratio, while the whole of India is reported to be 940:1000. Many pregnant women are pressured and in some cases forced to have a sex selective abortion, as having a daughter is seen as a financial burden on the family, making boys more sought after. Due to sex determination technology, it is very simple to find out the sex of a fetus, and to have an abortion.  Technological developments have allowed mobile sex selection clinics to drive into any neighbourhood or village unchecked, as the many laws preventing this horrific crime are not being put into play. Female feticide and sex selective abortions are the most deplorable and disgraceful exploitations that go on in the 21st century no less. Studies have shown that in some Indian states such as Kerala, the sex selection rates are much lower there, resulting from better education for females, and greater gender equality. Kerala is a predominantly Christian state and has the highest HDI in India, and the highest sex ration 1084 girls to 1000 males. Dowry is not the only contributing factor to female feticide; having a son is considered a valuable asset, as they are seen as breadwinners and sons are expected to financially look after their parents in their old age. There are six forms of what Diane Russell calls Femicide: female Infanticide, killing of girls under the age of 5 from starvation and violence, killing women through repeated and forced abortions; “Honour” killings, and “Witch” killings. The mortality rate for girls aged 1-5 in India is 75% higher than boys of the same age. Dowry is considered the cause of all of these.

India prides itself on being the world’s largest democracy, so why is it one of the worst countries for women? Many women are very alone in India. For many women, their own family rejects them and the police look away when brutality is inflicted upon women. The main question is: what causes this? The two main reasons are tradition and culture.  According to tradition, dowry is an age old practice, which is just getting worse and worse because of the economic growth of the country. Culturally, men are perceived as breadwinners, and this causes women to be seen as a liability and treated as second class citizens. 94% of rapes in India are perpetrated by people the victims knows, and has a relationship with. It would seem that in India many people feel it is okay to rape, kill, burn, neglect, and abuse women and girls on a regular basis in India. Deep rooted change in social attitudes are needed to make Indian women’s lives lengthy, full, and free. Instead of marriage being seen as a pact of love between a man and a woman, it is more like a business transaction, with the bridegroom demanding extravagant gifts and money, with the price rising each week, while the woman and her family have no say in the matter. The woman cannot simply deny the Dowry, as this usually ends in abuse and violence, and in many extreme cases, death. With over 100,000 women dying from burning in India a year, no doubt Dowry had to do with a majority of them.

Change can only happen if we all stand up against the Dowry System, and those who use it. The government needs to educate females and encourage strength and intelligence because studies have shown  in countries where women are more educated, the country thrives. . They also need to educate families and men and discourage consumerism, violence, and greed. The government needs to make the law come down 100% harder on sex selective abortions and more punitive of abuse against women. We need to change the mentality that men are superior to women, and that the Dowry system is a justifiable act. If we can do this, then there will be less sex selective abortions and female feticides, less murder, rape and violence against women, and women in India will have a better life.

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