The Delhi High Court had observed that the alarming recurrence of dowry-related fatalities serves as evidence that women continue to be perceived as a financial liability, and these deaths underscore the shortcomings in our collective societal attitudes. The court was hearing a petition filed by an individual named Satpal Singh, who was challenging his conviction and sentencing in connection with his wife's suicide in May 2000.
As reported by Bar And Bench, in April 2009, Singh was convicted by the trial court under Sections 498A (pertaining to cruelty towards the wife) and 304B (concerning dowry death) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). He was handed a ten-year prison term.
Justice Sharma presided over the case and acknowledged that the deceased woman had been subjected to relentless torment. Her access to making phone calls to her parents was restricted, and she was denied necessities like food and clothing by her in-laws.
Consequently, the court upheld the trial court's ruling and specified that since the convicted individual had been out on bail since 2009, he must surrender within 30 days to serve the remaining portion of his sentence.
The court highlighted that these cases extend beyond mere male dominance and gender-based animosity. "They often reveal intricate dynamics where women themselves contribute to perpetuating this hostility towards their fellow women," the court remarked.
Furthermore, it highlighted that in many parts of the country, and particularly among the financially weaker strata of society, women are viewed as financial burdens from birth. It said, "A woman's marriage prospects and associated expenses take precedence from birth, often overshadowing their educational and career aspirations."
The court also noted that the psychological stress and emotional trauma of in-laws repeatedly demanding dowry and subjecting a woman to a life resembling that of a servant can be even more detrimental than physical violence. It further stated that the trauma can be so overwhelming for some women that death might seem like a lesser agony compared to the relentless torment caused by dowry demands.
Have We Moved Forward?
It is disheartening to see how a woman's whole life and self-worth are reduced to the amount of money her parents can spend on her wedding rather than their aspirations, potential, talents and capabilities. The idea of dowry perpetuates the notion that all a woman brings into a marriage is money.
The case cited in the matter dates back to the year 2000. We are 23 years ahead now. Although, I refuse to believe anything has changed. Not because I am a pessimist but because of the real-life stories I hear every day. However, the word 'dahej' has now been changed to 'gifts' and the groom's parents tell the bride's parents 'It's for your daughter only.'
A recent example was shared by my mother. She told me that a senior officer from her department spent a crore and a half rupees on his daughter's wedding. Despite this, her in-laws demanded over Rs 5 crores from her father.
This is just one incident of many. It is a call to action for society, policymakers, and individuals to recognize the inherent worth of every woman and stand united against practices that undermine their dignity and well-being.
It is time to transform these poignant observations into a catalyst for change, fostering a future where women are valued not for the dowry they bring but for the incredible potential they possess.
Views expressed are the author's own.
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