Our Beacon Forum

Bride burning in India
By:Marco Petroni
Date: Wednesday, 24 June 2009, 4:20 pm

Bride Burning: another chapter on the humiliation of the Indian Woman
by CT Nilesh
Almost 5 thousand women are burnt every year. Even domestic violence and torture are on a rise with more than 75 thousand cases. Inability to pay dowry, revenge, betrayal are some of the reasons for this violence. These problems exist even amongst the Christians.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Only a few weeks back the nation was rejoicing for the election of its first female speaker in the Parliament. But it also has to face an ever rising phenomenon: bride burning. In the last few days the Supreme Court, in a rare pronouncement, took the opportunity to vent its ire against those resorting to bride burning.

The case at hand is related to the burning of a woman by her husband because of her protest against his alleged illicit relationship. The accused, sentenced to life imprisonment asked for the case to be revised. The vacation bench comprising Justice Markandey Katju and Deepak Verma, angered by the plea of the convict challenging his life sentence, was of the firm opinion that persons like him (the husband)deserved no leniency and should be awarded the death penalty.

This sharp reaction was caused by the spiraling crimes against women in matrimonial homes. The National Crime Records Bureau had reported a whopping 75,930 incidents of torture and cruelty against women within the family last year. More than 5,000 wives are burnt to death every year. But statistics precise that the incidence is increasing: 6.787 in the year 2005, 7,618 in 2006 and 8,093 in 2007.

The case taken up by the Supreme Court is related to the death of Rajni who in her dying declaration alleged that her husband Mahender Gulati, his elder brother Prem Kumar and the latter’s wife Vimla poured kerosene on her on December 9,2003 and set her on fire. She had also accused Mahender of having an illicit relationship with imla and alleged that the motive behind the crime was her protest against the affair.

The Supreme Court has always been of the idea that violence in matrimonial homes should be dealt with sternly and Justice Katju is known for his radical views in such cases.

Such cases do not take place only in villages or slums but is very much present in the urban middle class too. For example, even in the cities the age old costume of demanding dowry from the family of the proposed wife is very much alive. The families who cannot provide everything immediately may agree to a delayed payment of rates of dowry, but when the promises are not kept, the wife’s in-laws start harassing her to recover the promised items or sums. When finally they feel cheated (because they did not receive the entire amount of dowry) they try to get rid of the woman simulating kitchen accidents or suicide.

Awareness campaigns had been started by governments and private organizations to discourage and outlaw the system of dowry, but the age old system supported by tradition and greed is difficult to stop. Also in some traditional Christian communities, like in Kerala, it is considered an honor and a duty to give and to demand dowry.