ALAPPUZHA: Dowry death cases are on the increase in Kerala, the most literate state. Women are subjected to physical and mental torture by husbands and in-laws for bringing more dowry, including cash, jewellery, clothes and cars. The Malayalis’ greed for instant money and wealth may be the reason for such a despicable state of affairs, it is said. As per last year’s crime statistics available with Kerala police, 24 women either committed suicide or were murdered following dowry-related incidents. The figure was just seven in 2015. The conviction rate in dowry death cases is low. Rasiya, 26, Valiyamaram ward of Alappuzha municipality, set herself ablaze on May 12, 2012 after six years of torture by her in-laws and husband for dowry. Though the south police here registered a case against her husband Haseeb and others involved, no justice had been meted to them so far, said her brother A. Anas. She took the extreme step after she was detained by the accused in the house and barred from meeting her parents, it is stated.
The laws prohibiting dowry and dowry harassment have not been effective in the state. Though it is illegal to give or take dowry under the dowry prohibition Act (1969), the practice is prevalent in all sections of society. The justice system takes years to punish the guilty. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 87 per cent of dowry deaths in the country are pending in courts. More than 83 per cent of the cases registered under the dowry prohibition Act are pending trial. This is when the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, assures special protection for the victims. “The women should show the courage to stand up for their rights,” Ms K.C. Rosakutty, chairperson, Kerala Women's Commission, said. “There is nothing to be ashamed of divorce if needed. If a woman can’t adjust with in-laws and husband, she has to take a call on married life. Suicide is not a remedy,” she said. “The parents of the victimised woman often force her to patch up with the culprits to maintain their honour. But it lands her in adverse situations. Effective implementation of dowry prohibition Act can save several women on the verge of suicide,” she added.
“The number of dowry victims may be higher as they are reluctant to lodge complaints. I know scores of women who do not go to the police station fearing that it would spell the end of their married life,” she said. The commission had submitted a proposal to the government in June 2015 seeking regulations to provide help to the brides, including at least120 grams of gold. But it has not been considered, she said. A total of 24,771 dowry deaths were reported in the country in the past three years with the maximum number occurring in Uttar Pradesh with 7,048. In a written reply in the Lok Sabha in July 2015, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said that 8,233 cases were registered under section 304B of the Indian Penal Code (dowry death) in the country in 2012, 8,083 in 2013 and 8,455 in 2014 . Ms J. Devika, associate professor, Centre for Development Studies (CDS), Thiruvananthapuram, and noted feminist, opined that women should be made independent financially and intellectually. The girls should be given moral and emotional support by the parents. An emergency phone service that connects all authorities concerned should be set up so that the victimised women can contact them at a critical time, she said.