The shame of dowry deaths

The law has been able to do little to stem the rot. It’s high time society woke up to this shameful and cruel fact and acted.

ALAPPUZHA: Dowry deaths continue to shame Kerala which prides itself as the most literate state in India. The latest incident at Karunagapally where a young woman was starved to death by her in-laws for dowry shows that the mindset of the people has not changed despite laws banning the evil practice.

Thushara, a resident of Karunagapally, was locked up and forced to consume soaked rice and sugar syrup for days before she died at a government hospital in Kollam on March 21. Her husband and mother-in-law have been arrested for their cruelty.

As per police records, at least 16 women have lost their lives for dowry in the last three months in the state while the number was 12 in 2017. In the last ten years, 224 women in the state have died due to torture for dowry. On an average, two women die every month over the issue.

The dowry is given in the form of jewellery, clothes, cars and money to ensure the well-being of the daughter, but the groom’s family demands more after marriage resulting in mental and physical agony to the bride and finally suicide or even murder.

Soorya, 20, from Paravoor committed suicide in her husband’s house in January after her in-laws tortured her for dowry. She was working as a receptionist. Her husband Gokul, 26, was arrested following the complaint made by her parents. Liji,30, mother of a four-month-old baby girl, from Umbanad Mavelikara, committed suicide by jumping into the well in her in-law’s house in August 2017. That happened on the day her husband Bineesh abused her mother and sister over dowry when they called on her. Another woman, Arya V. Das, 24, from Chettikulangara hanged herself in the bathroom in March last following torture by her husband who was later arrested.

The conviction rate in dowry death cases is low. For instance, on May 12, 2012, Rasiya,26, in Valiyamaram ward of Alappuzha municipality, set herself ablaze after six years of torture by her in-laws and husband. Though the south police here registered a case against them, final justice has not been meted out to them. She took the extreme step after she was detained by the accused in the house and barred from meeting her parents.

Though it is illegal to give or take dowry under the Dowry Prohibition Act 1969, the practice is prevalent in all sections of society as the justice system is slow.

The National Crimes Records Bureau data says 87 per cent of the dowry deaths in the country are pending in courts. More than 83 per cent of the cases registered under Dowry Prohibition Act are pending trial. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, which assures special protection for the victims, is also violated often.

Activists blame the parents of victimised women for letting down their daughters instead of coming to their help. The state is lax towards implementing the dowry prohibition Act.

M.S. Thara, member of Kerala Women’s Commission, says individuals must change. “Religious and community organisations can play a crucial role in making people aware of the dowry evil,” she said. “The commission has been trying to curb the menace, but the trend cannot be changed overnight. Luxury marriages impose a huge burden on society.”

The Women’s Commission had submitted a proposal to the then UDF government in June 2015 to impose regulations like giving only 120 grams of gold to the bride. But it was never implemented.

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