Parul was a 20 year old lovely girl, who hailed from a small town of the northern part of Bangladesh. Her parents arranged her marriage with a charming groom: Faruk, a grosser from the same locality. They got married with large celebration. Soon after her marriage, she started to feel troubled at her new home. Her husband began torturing her physically and mentally for one reason or the other and her in-laws too started throttling her. Eventually she was told by her husband and in laws that her parents hadn’t paid adequate dowry to them. This culminated into the most tragic event when her husband threw a bucket of kerosene oil on her and burnt her on fire. She was burning until she had fallen to death. It was the inadequacy of dowry that had led her husband and his family members to kill the lovely young bride. The husband and in-laws had asked for her hand, not because she was a suitable bride but because of dowry to ensure the financial independence of groom’s family after marriage. As her family could not to meet their illegal demand she was burnt alive!
There are thousands of reported cases in a year where women are being burnt, scalped or abused in their homes over financial demands by their husbands and in-laws. Dowry deaths have significantly escalated over the last few decades.
If a bride cannot meet the financial demand of her dowry, she is often subject to torture, harassment and even death by the husband’s family. Even if a girl is alive after facing such inhuman treatment returning to her parents’ home after marriage is still a big stigma. The dowry issue still exists for many brides in rural areas but unfortunately many highly educated city girls are falling victims to it. Many affluent and educated families also negotiate the “price” with bride’s family. Sometimes the amount is settled and paid to the groom’s family at the time of marriage but with the passage of time the demands often increase after the bride arrives at her husband’s home. If the demands are not met, the bride suffers unimaginable tortures and violence like brutal beatings, emotional abuse or in extreme cases “burning the bride alive”.
The Dowry Prohibition Act was enacted in 1980 to prohibit the taking or giving of dowry in marriages. The law has the provisions for imprisonment or fine or both for taking dowry. The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1980 only provides for punishment for receiving/giving dowry and is silent on the issue of various forms of harassment.
The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs has prepared a draft to amend the Dowry Prohibition Act suggesting more aggravated punishment for such crimes. The draft law suggested provision for sentence to death or life imprisonment if husband, in-laws or any other person provokes a woman to commit suicide over dowry. The draft law also provides for life imprisonment for attempt to murder over dowry and sentence to life or a minimum of 12 years of imprisonment or both for causing any grievous harm to the bride.
Section 11 (a) (b) and (c) of The Women and Children Repression Prevention Act 2000 (amended 2003) has also provisions for punishment of dowry violence. The highest punishment for killing a bride is death penalty.
Giving dowry does not guarantee for parents that their daughters would live happily. The mindset of people has to be changed in the rural as well as urban areas to prevent this social evil which has taken lives of many women from all classes of society. The temptation for contracting marriages for social or economic gain rather than on grounds of mutual love and affection should be resisted. We have to increase our efforts to provide proper education to our daughters. Proper education and independence is the best dowry that any parent can ever give to their loving daughter.
The writer is an Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh and an activist.
Reproduced from Media Sources