Burn dowry not women
In a season where every other person seems to be taking offence at something or the other, let me add what offends me. I was deeply offended and hurt when I read the following headline: “One bride burnt every hour”. No, this is not a headline from a newspaper of the 1980s but from Sunday, January 29, 2012. The women the headline writes about are killed for not bringing in enough dowry. Yes, indeed, the giving, taking and killing for dowry is still alive and kicking in “Incredible India”. According to data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), there were 8,391 reported cases of dowry deaths in 2010. That is just under double the number of cases registered in 1995 — 4,648 cases. Statistics tell a story, but not the whole story. For every dowry death reported, there must be dozens that go unreported. Of the 8,391 reported cases in 2010, although 93.2 per cent were charge-sheeted, the conviction rate was a miserable 33.6 per cent. Despite a 1989 amendment to Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), shifting the burden of proof to the husband and his family, the process of getting a conviction remains fraught because of loopholes in the law and the inability of the victim's family to establish the link between dowry demands and the death. Often, it is impossible to take the dying declaration, as the victim is barely alive. Even when it is taken, the police handling is shoddy and careless, allowing a clever defence to tear it apart during trial. The official figures of dowry deaths are obviously just the tip of the iceberg. A truer picture would emerge if we added the cases of young married women registered as having committed suicide as well as cases filed under Section 498A of the IPC dealing with harassment from husband and relatives. In the NCRB crime data, there were 94,041 cases filed under 498A in 2010, up from 28,579 in 1995. There has been considerable controversy around 498A with some organisation, comprising apparently...
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