The human rights tragedy of bride burning occurs when individuals drench and burn a female bride using flammable liquid after she has not procured enough dowry money for the groom’s family. Although bride burning occurs in several countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh, the practice is most common in India and has been one of the country’s major issues for decades.
In India, bride burning accounts for the death of at least one woman every hour. According to data from the National Crime Records Bureau, over 8,000 reported cases of dowry deaths occurred in 2010. This travesty is related to the ancient tradition of dowry and society’s effects of poverty. A dowry is an exaction of money or material goods given to the groom’s family as a wedding token. Most families who require a high dowry do so to advance their economic situations.
Bride burning occurs when the groom’s family believes they have not received enough money for their son at the time of the wedding. The family of the groom may be from a higher caste, publicly known, or just want more money.
Syed, a man from Chennai, India, blames his family’s high dowry as the reason why he is still unmarried at age 35. When he asked his mother why she demands such a high dowry from the bride, she says, “We have spent so much on you, for your education, for raising you and now we will marry you off and most of the money you earn will go to your wife. So she will benefit from all the money we spent on you. For that, they can pay an amount to have our son.”
This story is an example of the views of many Indian parents. Some males are opposed to dowries but in the end, their parents are the determining factor.
Dowry Prohibition Act
In 1961, India established the Dowry Prohibition Act. The law banned paying and receiving dowries and set penalties for violators. Some amendments have been proposed or added in reference to the Act over the years. Additionally, the Indian Penal Code tailored their law in 1983 to specifically tackle dowry-related issues. The Code also added penalties for harassment of a woman by her marital family.
In 2014, the National Commission for Women in India proposed several amendments to the Dowry Act. These amendments would redefine the word “dowry” and included penalties and provisions for misuse of the act. Although these amendments did not prove favorable, they were a step in the right direction in bringing forward legislation to protect women.
Several women’s rights organizations in India help provide victims with places to stay and counseling sessions. The government also started numerous grass-roots organizations to provide family counseling. The incentive is to promote, mediate, and strengthen family ties.
With the help of global awareness and proposed legislation, India will be able to tackle its patriarchic and misogynistic perspective towards women and the poor. One way to prevent bride burning can be through education, narrowly tailored laws and greater public awareness.
– Needum Lekia