Dowry abuse not going away anytime soon

Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled | Published: September 15, 2018 21:22:49 | Updated: September 15, 2018 21:55:21

The country is experiencing a significant number of dowry-related violent incidents. These incidents are outshining achievements that the nation has made on the women empowerment front. Dowry-related violence is prevalent despite various measures in place to get rid of dowry system and dowry-related violence against women.

Related statistics of recent years show that dowry-related violence is continuing at an alarming level. More concerning is the fact that the numbers of cases being filed in this regard are far less than the total number of incidents where women are suffering.

As per statistics provided by human rights-promoting non-governmental organisation (NGO) Odhikar, as many as 5,699 women faced dowry-related violence from 2001 to 2017 across the country. The rate of homicides and suicides linked with dowry-related incidents was also very high during this time. Odhikar stated that at least 256 women faced dowry-related violence and 129 women were killed or committed suicide in 2017.

The number of incidents continues to rise year-on-year in spite of anti-dowry campaigns and legal reforms. The government enacted Dowry Prohibition Act-2017 to replace the 1980 law. But the number of cases filed is still low compared to the actual number of violent incidents.

As per non-governmental organisation (NGO) Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), 188 dowry-related cases were filed in 2017 against 303 reported incidents of dowry-related violence.

Though the country has made significant strides in women education and empowerment, dowry violence is still a serious issue in the country. For any individual or individuals who provoke any girl to commit suicide over dowry, the Dowry Prohibition Act-2017 has provision of 14 years' of rigorous imprisonment with fines for the individual(s). It has a provision for a life-term or 12 years of imprisonment for hurting a woman over dowry. But all victims are not seeking legal help.

Human rights activists are of the opinion that these incidents are a manifestation of women's status and position in the society where women are still perceived as a liability. In most cases, they are not treated as equals with their male counterparts. Also, there is a tendency to underestimate girls. Most families make their girls believe that they are less important in the society. This leads to their misfortune in every step of life.

Though laws of the land permit women's rights to property, most women are not allowed to have property ownership by their families. On the contrary, many of them have to depend on males of the society for economic and safety issues. These dependencies make them passive and subject to insults and tortures. The prevalence of the dowry system continues because it is culturally ingrained in Bangladeshi society. The practice will remain in place until women establish or assert their rights and achieve economic independence.

The entire social system needs to be re-arranged and every unit of society from family to state needs to become gender-sensitive. Only rules, regulations and temporary campaigns cannot eliminate the problem from the society.

Social awareness and rejection of the dowry system from all walks of life by all, irrespective of cast and creed, are necessary to abolish dowry.

Sarwar Mohammad Saifullah Khaled is a retired Professor of Economics, BCS General Education Cadre.

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