By Uma Challa
The phrase “bride burning” conjures up images of a cruel husband and his family members dousing a young woman in kerosene, flinging a lighted matchstick on her and gloating as the hapless bride goes up in flames.
The term “dowry death” also sparks off vivid imaginations of a woman being taunted and harassed for money and finally, hanged to death within the four walls of her house. We also have watched movies and TV serials where a malicious mother-in-law poisons the unsuspecting daughter-in-law’s meal or quietly causes a gas leak and locks the new bride in the kitchen right before she lights the stove to make tea for the family.
There must be many families who burn their brides for dowry as a routine practice otherwise, why would there be so many news reports about dowry deaths? As they say, there cannot be smoke without a fire. Right?
Feminists would have you believe that every unnatural or untimely death of a married Indian woman is dowry death. Not only that, the feminist hyperbole on “bride killing” and “dowry harassment” makes it look like Indian men have an uncanny propensity to commit violence on their wives for money, while men in other countries commit domestic violence for other reasons.
In reality, it is the number of registered suicides of married women which are passed off as statistics of dowry death, and even these numbers are almost always exaggerated. It has become a custom to claim that all the women have been “driven to suicide” due to dowry harassment.(Links No.1-6) The husband and in-laws are immediately arrested under IPC Sections 304B and 498A and incarcerated for a couple of weeks to several months without bail. They are promptly subjected to media trial and labeled criminals even before investigation or trial can begin.
Even if all the noise about Indian brides being “driven to suicide” for dowry is indeed well-founded, one would expect that the number of suicides of married women would be significantly higher compared to that of unmarried women. However, the National Crime Records Bureau’s statistics show that there is no significant difference in the rates of suicide by married and unmarried women.
Justice Saldana’s remarks (in Crl.A. no. 589 of 2003) are testimony to how anti-dowry laws are being misused to the detriment of innocent citizens:
…we need to sound a note of caution that the police and investigating authorities should not improperly and technically jump to the conclusion that merely because death has occurred that ipso facto a criminal offense has been committed . In as many as 44% of these cases prosecution is thoroughly unjustified. Unless there is cogent and convincing evidence and unless there is material to sustain these charges, it would be totally impermissible and completely unjustified to embark upon legal action. The consequences of these charges are extremely grave because the accused husband and invariably family members are placed under arrest. There are serious social and economic repercussions.
The fact that we do come across considerable number of instances where prosecution was unjustified seems to indicate that in every case of death of young woman or recently married women that prosecution and filing of charge sheet has become automatic. There does not appear to be a proper application of mind at the stage of scrutiny and having regard to this position we direct the concerned authorities to ensure that requirements of the law are correctly and responsibly followed.It is important to note that more than 56,000 married Indian men end their lives every year. According to statistics obtained from the National Crime Records Bureau, every year, twice as many married men, compared to women, commit suicides unable to withstand verbal, emotional, economic and physical abuse by their wives and in-laws. Deaths of these men make for the brief stories we often read in newspapers stating that a certain man “killed himself due to family issues or financial problems”. (LInks No.7-12)
Thanks to the concerted efforts of the feminists, thousands of men are also becoming victims of “legal terrorism” unleashed through laws like Sections 498A and 304B of the Indian Penal Code, Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act, adultery laws, laws against rape and sexual harassment, and even divorce, maintenance and child custody laws. Many men are ending their lives unable to endure the fear, humiliation and trauma caused by the legal harassment.(Links No.13-18)
While it is insisted that the death of every young married woman is a case of dowry death requiring immediate arrest of the husband and in-laws, accompanied by media-hype, male-bashing and breast-beating, driving thousands of men to commit suicide is considered social service in India.
Feminists have always wanted “dowry harassment” and “bride burning” to remain hot issues that fuel the Indian Domestic Violence Industry.
The feminist Taliban will surely burn in rage as we look beyond the smoke screen and call their bluff.