AIDWA Releases Publication on Expanding Dimensions Of Dowry

17 August, 2003  
AT a function in the national capital, New Delhi, on August 1, Justice Sujatha Manohar, a member of the National Human Rights Commission, released a publication brought out by the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) titled Expanding Dimensions of Dowry. The publication brings together surveys on the practice of dowry from 18 states conducted by local AIDWA activists. About 10, 000 parents and unmarried girls were interviewed in the survey. The respondents belonged to all communities. Speaking on the occasion, Justice Sujatha commended the efforts of local activists to bring out the realities of this iniquitous social practice. She said that there is an under-use of laws related to the practice of dowry. It there are any cases of misuse of laws that can be dealt with, it cannot become the pretext to weaken laws that are most required. She said that dowry was one of the gravest violations of human rights because it institutionalised a lesser citizenship for women. She expressed the support of the NHRC for all struggles against dowry.
The function attended by several women's organisations and activists was presided over by Dr Shakti Kak, honorary director, Indian School of Women's Studies and Development. It was addressed by Rajni Palriwala who had contributed the overview paper in the publication, and AIDWA general secretary Brinda Karat. They spoke of the need to link research and social analysis with the direct experience of activists who are struggling for social change. The field of women's studies has tremendous potential to strengthen struggles against the patriarchal, unequal status quo, but at the same time the trends of cooption and distortion of gender perspectives that can derail movements are also present. Thus the links between women's studies and women's struggles for social change need to be strengthened.
Also present were several young women and men who had fought against dowry. Among them, Nisha Sharma related how after her action against the dowry demands being made, she has had to face a concerted campaign against herself in which her signature was forged on a false affidavit that she had been married before. The signature has been certified to be false but even though this had vindicated her stand, she had to go through much of mental trauma. A young couple from Haryana who had married without dowry, related how they had to face opposition from the 'community' but were not deterred. Akhila, a student from Delhi University and office bearer of the SFI, spoke about the pressure on young women to get married by their parents. "Why should marriage be the only future for young women while young men are encouraged to develop their careers," she asked.