Hundreds of thousands of Rupees in cash being handed to an Australian-Indian groom in an arranged marriage by the bride’s father as dowry.
See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil is a strategy adopted by the Indian society in relation to the cancer that is dowry problems, dowry related domestic violence and dowry related murders.
Dowry is defined as gifts given or taken in the context of a wedding that are multiple times the annual income of either family. It is alive and well in Multicultural Australia. At least two murders related to dowry demands in Victoria have come to light. The Herald Sun reported a Chinese mother- in- law killed her daughter in law who could not afford the dowry worth half a million dollars.She was brought to justice in Victoria. The other case is that of an Indian woman Deepshikha Godara . For her, domestic violence started at the hands of her mother-in-law and husband the day after marriage. In a letter written to the Royal Commission by her father he said repeated demands by the father-in-law , cash and gifts at each festival to his family back in India did not satisfy the groom and his family. Their arranged marriage never bonded with much emotional and physical abuse perpetrated by husband, his mother, his father, his uncle until the day she decided to leave him. He then killed her and killed himself.
This evil that is dowry is kept in place by the patriarchal powers of the society and often the mothers-in-law. She is actually acting on behest of the men, to maintain men’s power over women. She is rewarded with special privileges by men of society if she stays complicit –privileges like public respect, awards, money. If she speaks out against the custom she will be ostracised, no one will want to marry her daughters and she will be shunned by society.
Dowry is a cause of gender inequality where boys and men are rewarded, and mothers with male babies are rewarded while those pregnant with female babies are forced to abort. This is the root of a culture with a sense of entitlement seen among men. It was noted by Judge Gray in Sargun Ragi s inquest. He found that Indian-born Mr Singh was motivated by an ‘culturally entrenched’ attitude of ‘male entitlement’.
The daughter on the other hand is a losing proposition. The parents love her, educate her, invest emotional energy and only to be told by society that unless they give dowry, multiple times their annual income to a prospective groom she cannot get married. If the Indian groom is a resident of USA, Canada, Australia, UK he will command bigger dowry in millions or billions. Dowry has become a status symbol. The rich can afford it but it is the middle and lower socioeconomic classes who feel the burden. Is it then a surprise that female babies in India are constantly aborted and female infanticide is a problem? This has given rise to an abnormal male to female sex ratio where males predominate with the ratio of 1000 men to 964 women and even lower in some states of India? Is it happening in Australia? The answer is YES, and is provided by the Australia Bureau of Statistics.
We don’t realize the damage dowry is doing to us, we are all willing participants in this harmful tradition, not out of choice, but because we are silenced, suppressed, scared and subservient. We see no evil in dowry, we do not wish to hear any evil related to it and we do not want to speak about it keeping the problem hidden.
A petition tabled by Heidi Victoria MP on 26 November 2015 in the Victorian Parliament demands that dowry demands are placed under Family Violence Protection legislation as an example of economical abuse. This will serve as a deterrent and an awareness rising exercise among the community, the service delivery organisations, law enforcement agencies.