I still remember vividly the day I saw, in the newspaper, a photograph of a young woman crouching in front of a fridge, a washing machine and other assorted household goods and sundries. She looked so small and so fragile sitting there, dwarfed by her dowry, with her bridal henna staining her hands and forearms.
I don’t remember her name, and I’ve tried to find out, to no avail. She had contacted the newspapers because she could no longer bear the pressure her father was under; her fiancé and his family had continually pressured her father to provide more and more dowry, and under the latest outrageous demand (a car) she had finally spoken up. She got the conversation going, forced people to confront and acknowledge what they already knew: that the dowry system in India is cruel, that it places incredible pressure on the families of young women, and that it is the catalyst for so much violence against women.
Although anti-dowry laws have existed in India since 1961 (twelve years after Indian Independence), they are considered to be largely ineffective. The practice of asking for — and giving — dowry remains unchecked and rampant, and India has the largest number of dowry deaths in the world.
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