Convention against Dowry in Tripura

31 August, 2003 Rupa Ganguli
THE Tripura state committee of All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) organised a state level convention on dowry system and atrocities against women at Rabindra Bhavan, Agartala, on August 7. The Bhavan was lost in the gathering of women when at first the ground floor, then the first floor and even the veranda got jampacked as the auditorium too small to accommodate the crowd. Tribal, Muslim and scheduled caste women came in huge numbers, despite the scorching heat of the sun. Why had they come? Sushila Debi told it's quite difficult to keep inside house, as day by day the torture on women, killing of brides, etc, are increasing. This is why even the aged Ratna Sarkar came with her grand daughter.
The presidium comprised senior women leaders like Mangaleswari Debbarma, Manjulika Bose, Sukhamati Debbarma, Rehana Begam and Sabita Goswami. At first the AIDWA state secretary Rama Das presented the resolution and future programme of the association before the house. She expressed deep concern on the rise in atrocities on woman in the recent time despite a vigorous campaign by AIDWA committees and active role of the government. The call was to develop social resistance against such inhuman activities.
Speaking at the convention, chief minister Manik Sarkar said a moral degeneration has set in, and the worst example is the killing of brides and torture of women for dowry. Sarkar also said throughout the country only women are protesting against the atrocities on women, which is a matter of shame for the society. What is this? Men too have to fight against the evil. He asked if personalities like Raja Rammohan Roy, Vidyasagar and Derojio could fight for women's emancipation, then why the men of today could not fight. The chief minister asked the AIDWA to join hands with other organisations for the fight. They must also strive to eliminate illiteracy in the basti areas. He said not only must we refuse to take dowry, we should also prevent others from taking dowry. The chief minister detailed what measures his government has taken to curb the atrocities on women. It has created all-women police stations, formed the state women's commission and decided to set up a family court that will start functioning once a judge is selected. Yet, many more measures need to be taken. He asked the AIDWA to bring pressure upon the police and judges to promptly solve the pending court cases related to atrocities against women.
CPI(M) Central Committee member Bijon Dhar stressed the need of direct action programmes and social resistance. He said the struggle has to raise the issues related to empowerment of women, including 33 per cent reservation for women in parliament and state legislatures. The union government has allowed the foreign electronic media entry into the country, and these media are portraying women on TV screens and otherwise as a commodity of sex. This can only lead to a rise in crimes against women. He also suggested the need of reform of the various existing personal laws so as to end the discrimination against women and enhance their prestige and rights in the family.
State Women's Commission chairperson Champa Dasgupta commended the AIDWA for playing a great role in the state. She said this association could organise protest and fight against the anti-women atrocities, and promised that the Women's Commission would give it full help and support in this regard.
The convention decided that standing by the suffering women, the AIDWA will hold a series of district and local level conventions against the dowry system, killing of brides and torture against women. Data about tortures would be collected and higher police officers of the concerned districts approached. In case any torture case comes to light, the organisation will instantly react, publicise the event in various ways and ask the authorities to mete out severe punishment to the torturer. This type of protest will be a regular feature. The AIDWA will also encourage women to fight against the dowry system. A mass publicity programme will be taken up to create public awareness on the issue. Boycott will be organised of the marriages in which dowry is taken or given.
To fight against the dowry system, bridge killing and torture on women, the convention decided to put up before the state government 16 specific proposals. These are:
  1. Appropriate action against those torturing women. The police and administration will have to be made more alert and responsible.
  2. Step by step, an all-women police station must be created in all districts.
  3. Registration of marriage must be made mandatory in all the village and town panchayats.
  4. The anti-dowry law must move into action as early as possible.
  5. The central and state governments must take proper action to make the suffering women economically self-reliant.
  6. The system of joint pattas must be made more effective.
  7. Reform measures must be initiated along with literacy programmes.
  8. The information and cultural affairs department must prepare publicity material against the torture on women.
  9. The state government must take special measures to provide health care and social security to the suffering women.
  10. The Women's Commission must be given more powers.
  11. A special day must be observed against dowry and torture on women.
  12. If anybody is found guilty of taking or giving dowry or helping in this heinous crime, he or she must not be allowed to participate in elections.
  13. Anti-dowry lessons must be included in the syllabus.
  14. A special review must be conducted to examine the socio-economic situation in which bride killing or torture on women has taken place in the last one year, and preventive measures must be proposed.
  15. The state government must try to ensure that the bill for 33 per cent reservation for women is passed in parliament.
  16. There must be total ban on the marriage of minor girls.