She was the most gorgeous girl I ever saw – fair-skinned and possessing all the characteristics which anyone would desire. When I saw her for the first time, I was stunned by her beauty. Later, I realised she was Radhika, my best friend’s sister.
A few months later, Radhika got married to a person working in an MNC in Gurgaon. He was well-settled and fetching ₹2 lakh every month.
I had just returned from a hectic tour of South India. I was away from home for two good months. My jam-packed schedule kept me away from calls and messages as I was constantly meeting one client after another and flying from one city to another city.
I arrived in Jaipur late at night so my parents didn’t wake me early morning the next day. It was about 10:30 am when my phone rang.
“Hello, yes, Ayush,” I spoke.
“Hardik, Anuj’s sister has died. Come to Apex Hospital right away,” came the reply.
I was terrified when I heard it. Gathering all my courage, I rushed to the hospital, unaware of any possible incident that might have occurred during the course of the last two months.
“Her husband set her on fire since she couldn’t mom and dad to give more dowry,” Anuj later told me.
Radhika was a good person but her husband preferred money and tangible assets over her. Irony laughed one more time that day!
How many times have we seen, heard or read an incident where a newly-wed bride was set on fire by her husband or in-laws just because she couldn’t ask for additional dowry from her parents?
“Kitna laga sakte ho?” (How much are you willing to spend?) is a common question asked during the initial discussion between the bride and groom’s families. In spite of knowing that dowry is a punishable offence, families negotiate the dowry amount freely.
Once the wedding is accomplished, the bride is pressurised to ask for additional dowry from the family. In most cases, instead of killing her, the groom and his family mentally harass the bride. She is continuously tortured and taunted. The husband also threatens his wife with divorce if she doesn’t obey instructions. Due to societal norms, the bride is coerced into quietly bearing the pressure which leads to severe depression.
According to Section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), “where a bride is within 7 years of her marriage is killed and it is shown that soon before her death, she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband, or in connection with any demand for dowry, such death shall be called ‘dowry death’ and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death.”
If you carefully observe the definition, you’ll find a major defect. For a person to be termed guilty as per this section, the crime has to be ‘proved’ or ‘shown.’ However, many times, the crime isn’t proved since the murder or harassment is disguised as an accident, and the criminals escape easily.
Do you know the rate of dowry deaths in India? Every hour, at least one woman becomes a victim of dowry death, and the annual figures go well above 8,000 deaths. Most shockingly, several cases are not reported, and as per experts, the actual death figures could well be 3 or 4 times the official statistics.
Overall, the cases related to harassment of the bride for dowry are continuously increasing in India despite of strict rules. The tradition is prevalent even in the upper castes and high classes of society.
Until young people don’t come forward to say a strict no to dowry or any other similar practice, we won’t be able to save women from the demon of dowry death.
Through this article, I’ve detailed down the prevailing problem, factual information and underlying solution. I leave you with one question to answer yourself – can we stop what seems to be an auction of women before dowry deaths swallow every bride?
Note: this article was originally published here.