Friday, June 04, 2004

Bride Burning is Alive and Well... Sadly Perhaps readers of the Hegemon have already heard of the dowry related practice of "bride burning" in India. I was reminded of this heartbreaking practice by a program on television. There are many articles and research papers written about this hideous crime that is committed against Indian women on a daily basis in contemporary society. In fact, stats are rising due to the recent worldwide economic crunch. Reported stats in this article count about 6,000 women a year die as a result of dowry related abuse. The article states that some studies estimate the real numbers could be closer to 25,000 women murdered in a year. It is common for a husband and his family, the females included, to report a bride burning as a "kitchen accident", and the women who survive are too afraid to contest their word of what happened to them. Typically, these women are burned over 60-90% of their bodies and most die. The deadly consequences of sexism in contemporary society, just like racism, come into clearer perspective, considering these acts in India, genital mutilation in Africa, and female infanticide, etc. From this perspective, the Axis of Eves' pranks are not so funny or clever, to me, nor make a just political statement against the range of physical and psychological forms the repression of women take in contemporary society. However, the most heinous forms of dowry abuse often occur after a women is married and has moved into her husband's or in-laws' house as is customary in many parts of India. If the groom and his family find that dowry was not paid in full or believe it to be insufficient, they may take out their anger and frustration on the bride. In worst-case scenarios, the groom and his family may demand more dowry from the bride's family even years after the marriage, simply out of greed. In essence, their ability to harm the women is used as a means of blackmailing her family for money to ensure her safety. The harassment against the bride can take the form of psychological and physical abuse such as confinement to the house, rape, and beatings. In some cases, a woman is even murdered by her husband or his family. The most common form of dowry homicide is a phenomena known as "bride-burning," whereby the women is doused with kerosene and set ablaze. The murder is often made to look like a "kitchen accident" or a suicide. In some cases the mental and physical anguish to which a woman is subjected does indeed drive her to commit suicide.
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