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Study busts dowry myths in Assam

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Staff Reporter   |   Guwahati   |   Published 05.06.03, 12:00 AM

Guwahati, June 5: The All-India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), Assam branch, will launch a campaign against increasing atrocities on women for dowry. This was decided at a state-level convention of the AIDWA on the status of women, held here today.

“We will discuss and try to plug the various legal loopholes. We will also conduct workshops to educate women on their rights and privileges,” Meera Tamuly, state secretary, AIDWA, said.

“We will visit the State Home for Women at Jalukbari to take stock of the situation there. We will also submit a proposal to the government to take steps to rehabilitate these women suitably,” she said.

The myth of Assam being a “dowry-free” state is fast being shattered. A survey conducted by the AIDWA in five districts in Assam revealed that dowry was very much prevalent in Assamese society.

The survey revealed that 33.7 per cent of the women did not want dowry and sought to be educated and self-dependent. However, 20.4 per cent felt taking dowry was part of their “legal rights” to their share of the paternal property.

In fact, in Barpeta district’s Baregaon and Sumarkhat villages, many respondents felt that dowry is their “security” against any kind of atrocity.

Even in the rural areas, parents incur a lot of expenditure in marrying off their daughters. Around 23 per cent of the parents have incurred up to Rs 1 lakh as marriage expenditure.

“There has been rising incidents of demands from the groom’s side after marriage and women are being physically and mentally harassed for non-compliance of these demands,” said Tamuly.

Three victims of harassment due to dowry demands, Pritika Deb of Barpeta, Nibha Pal of Tinsukia and Aruna Das, narrated how they were being harassed by their in-laws for dowry.

Dowry is no longer restricted to gifts and not limited to the usual household goods.

“There have been incidents of demands for cash from the groom’s household and those demands are being fulfilled by the bride’s family,” said Swarnalata Das, member, AIDWA.

According to the study, around 37 per cent of the dowry demands were for jewellery, and 21 per cent of the people demanded cash.

The study also revealed that there have been an increasing number of cases of domestic violence on women. Many of them do not come forward to register a complaint due to fear of bringing a “bad name” to the family.

“We will also conduct similar surveys in all other districts of Assam and try to create a status report on the prevailing condition of women,” said Tamuly.

Malini Bhattacharya, central committee member of the AIDWA, who was the chief guest on the occasion said, “In India, women were always seen associated with the chullah (oven). But now they go hand-in-hand with men and play a dual role in building society. They should be accorded the status of an equal partner in life.”

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