Rather than getting married and focusing on honeymoon plans, many women in India worry about whether or not they will be able to live post-wedding based on the value of their dowry. Sounds crazy, right? Sure enough, thousands of women a year are reported as being victims to bride burning.
A woman’s fate after her marriage is largely dependent on her dowry, or the valuables that she is able to supply for her husband and his family after her marriage. This includes land, jewelry, cars, and appliances. Wives are often considered to be liabilities to their husbands, and the dowry is her way of proving her worthiness. Often times, if the husband or his family is not satisfied with the value of the dowry, the woman is in danger of being burned to death. This murder is often disguised as an accident. Dowry disputes claim the lives of many newlywed women when they do not match up to the expectations of their husbands and new in-laws. While the woman may have the option to file for divorce, there is a deep rooted, negative social stigma attached to divorced women. Her family’s honor might be tainted and in many cases, her own family refuses to welcome her back into her home. In these cases, escaping the violence and abuse does not necessarily mean safety for the survivor.
Technically, bride burning is an illegal practice. However, in the traditionally patriarchal society, crimes involving women are often not taken seriously. There are resources for women to report domestic violence, but it is clear that the authorities need to do more.
Knowing this, imagine the life of a new bride in India. Many marriages are arranged, so the wife might not know much about her husband and his family in general. Along with adjusting to a new place with new people, the wife realizes that her worth to her husband is based on the amount of valuables that her own family can give them. The idea of being happily married takes the back seat to the hopes of being safely married.
Read more about violence against women in the Asia-Pacific region here.