India has the highest number of dowry-related deaths globally. The numbers are alarming — a woman dies every hour as per statistics released by the Indian National Crime Record Bureau and this is the case when dowry-related crimes are grossly underreported. The legislation (Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961) takes a strong stance against dowry-related cases — a victim can report an offense up to seven years post marriage.
But the punishment isn’t severe enough to act as an effective deterrent — imprisonment up to a maximum of six months and a fine of up to ₹5,000. All pomp and no show — only so much to protect the exploited fairer sex. The practice is strongly ingrained within society that it is socially acceptable within a sizeable proportion of the population. Our generation claims to shy away from the practice publically, but merrily accepts expensive gifts claiming how the bride’s family wasn’t compelled but gifted it out of freewill (“unhone apni khushi se diya hai”).
With the goal of reducing dowry-related violence and uprooting this practice, Indian Matrimony Nikah Forever developed a portal wherein survivors could share their stories. Hammad Rahman, founder and CEO of Nikah Forever, envisions a dowry-free country and started the social campaign on December 18 this year. For the past month, the matrimony portal has been driving the conversation around dowry reporting statistics and stories in a bid to educate users. “We had been reaching out to social activists and our followers to collaborate in a bid to gather support for the social cause,” Rahman comments on the initiative. “This is when users started sharing their stories through direct messages on our page and we got this idea of building a platform to take the conversation forward.”
Nikah Forever’s social media handles, those on Instagram and Facebook, laid the seed for this idea, which went viral instantly. Till now, around 6,589 people have shared their stories. “We have requested permission from users to share their stories and they will be collated shortly and the collection will be shared with NGOs working in this space and the public to drive awareness,” explains Rahman.
Nikah Forever had requested its followers to post a picture of themselves with a red-cross drawn on their hands. The cross symbolises taking a stand against dowry. The company received thousands of pictures in support of the campaign and were subsequently posted on their social media handles driving a larger support base.
They also conducted a survey that has been shared with German-research company Statista. It reveals several key findings:
The company has previously driven the conversation around similar social evils. As part of their #NoToBigFatWeddings initiative, they have received over 1.5 lakh signatures on an online petition campaign against excessive marriage spending. According to a 2019 survey by IndiaLends, nearly 20% of loan applications from Indians during 2018-19 were to fund their marriage, and excessive marriage spending remains a crucial issue.