Bengaluru has a dubious distinction: High dowry deaths

City Women

Parents who can’t pay cash give other valuables

Bengaluru is among the top metropolitan cities to have a high rate of dowry deaths, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

According to the NCRB’s latest report, the rate for dowry deaths in the city is 0.7. It is 2.2 for Kanpur, 1.8 for Jaipur, 1.4 for Delhi; and 0.1 for Kolkata.

A crime rate is calculated by dividing the number of reported cases by the city’s total population. The result is then multiplied by one lakh.

Demanding and giving dowry is common all over India. In many cases, women are subjected to physical and domestic abuse.

Saumya Dixit, 28, who was married when she was 19, shared: “They (the in-laws) asked for a refrigerator, double bed, and money of course. My parents gave everything, but after marriage, they used to taunt me saying ‘she didn’t get anything as dowry’.” She suffered a miscarriage due to violence by her husband. She has divorced her husband now.

People from lower income groups face a similar problem. If they aren’t able to give money, they give dowry in other forms.

Chandrakala, a tea vendor in Bengaluru, informed The Observer: “During my daughter’s wedding, they asked for cash. We could not do that, so we gave gold jewellery instead. Even after the marriage, they kept asking for money. We didn’t have it, so we could not give it.” Her daughter was a victim of domestic abuse.

Divaynshi Jain, 21, whose sister got married recently, said: “The groom’s family demanded Rs 11 lakh in cash along with jewellery and furniture. We had to also bear the cost of the party and everything. We spent about Rs 30 lakh in all. My sister didn’t have a say in the matter, not even my mother. It’s an age-old tradition that is patriarchal and unnecessary. It felt like we were selling something.”

Yogita Bhayana, an activist for women’s issues, said: “Bengaluru is a cosmopolitan city; but, unfortunately, dowry deaths are happening. Somewhere it shows the reality of our country.  . Bengaluru, a modern city, still has so many cases because it’s not just about the mindset but also a cultural thing. This system is a part of their culture and it becomes a matter of pride when a bride comes to her in-laws’ house with a huge dowry.”

People accused of taking dowry usually get away as the fight for justice is prolonged, Bhayana added. “It is very difficult for the parents or family members to keep fighting.”

Reema Bhatiya, a sociologist, explained that dowry has become something that rich people like to flaunt. “They are educated people with degrees from foreign universities; they don’t need anyone’s money; but just because they want to show their affluence, they do it.” For middle-class and poor people, it is a way to move forward in life.

“Grooms ask for money to invest in some business or to buy goods that they cannot buy. The day a daughter is born, the family starts saving money. This is the kind of patriarchal society we live in. It is very difficult to stop it. It is deep-rooted in our society. There are laws to prevent it, but many times it (dowry) is disguised as land, gifts or gold. So laws fail there,” she added.

Giving or taking dowry is a punishable offence. Under Section 304B of the IPC, a person found guilty must serve a sentence of at least seven years. This may be extended to life imprisonment. The offence is non-bailable.

According to a Bangalore Mirror report, dowry cases are on a sharp rise in the city. In 2019, 748 cases were registered under the Dowry Prohibition Act. The number rose by 60 in 2020. In the north-eastern states, the dowry system is the opposite there: The groom’s family is expected to give dowry to the bride’s family.


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