Advice on How To Protect Yourself From Dowry Extortion and Violence
December/January is wedding season in India. In light of the fact that there are more than 100,000 women murdered for dowry in India every year, we are making an advisory post for Brides-To-Be and their families. Please protect yourselves from dowry extortion, violence and murder.
1. Back Out Of Any Wedding Arrangement Where Any Kind of Financial Demand is Made in Cash or Kind:
- A gift is something given with love; it is never asked for.
- But when grooms and their families start specifying how much money they want for the wedding, what kinds of gifts – houses, cars, etc. they want for the wedding, what other favors such as jobs, promotions etc. they want for the wedding, and they threaten to call the wedding off if these ‘gifts’ are not given to them, then this is not gift-giving. This is blackmail! It is illegal! It is extortion! It is a criminal act.
- Indian women and their families must think about the morals and social values of such families. If they are criminal extortionists what else are they capable of? The thousands of dowry murders of young brides in India show that these greedy, blackmailing families continue to extort money after the wedding. They inflict terrible violence on the brides, and eventually thousands of young women get murdered by them!!
- Why should any woman want to get married into such a family? Why should women and their parents pay money to people who blackmail and inflict violence?
- Therefore we repeatedly warn all brides-to-be and their families – if the groom’s family asks for anything before, during or after the wedding please take it as a sign of extreme danger!
- Get out fast! No matter how far into the wedding preparations you are! Even if it is the wedding day!
- DO NOT PROCEED WITH THE WEDDING.
- Once they have made a demand, get out and do not return to the arrangement, even if they tell you that they will lower their demand. Case after case shows that even if they suddenly decide not to press on with the dowry demand, they wait till after the wedding to do so.
- DO NOT TRUST THESE KINDS OF FAMILIES!!!!
2. The Bride Must Quickly Leave The Marital Home if Any Kind of Financial Demand is Made Any Time After The Wedding:
- Nowadays, dowry demands are being made not before but after the wedding. What the families of grooms realize is that if they make a dowry demand before the wedding, the bride’s family might not agree to the marriage. So they wait till after the wedding to make the dowry demand.
- Because there is such taboo against divorce in India, and girl when married is considered ‘spoiled’ – many families of brides who might not give in to dowry extortion before the wedding, give in to the sustained blackmail after the wedding.
- However, this is dangerous. Because the demand for money and financial resources from the bride’s family is never ending, and there is tremendous violence inflicted on the young bride every time the in-laws want her to get more cash or monetary favors from her parents. For e.g. this woman manager of the HDFC bank (one of India’s largest banking networks today), who was earning top management salary, was harassed for more and more money – made to pay off her in-laws’ home loans, and then forced to pay for her brother-in-law’s university education in the United States. It got to the point where she could not bear the abuse and torture anymore and committed suicide (her story here). In many cases, ever after children are born, the dowry extortion and physical abuse continues, and women get murdered when they stop bringing in the money.
- SO EVEN IF YOU ARE MARRIED, PLEASE LEAVE THAT HOUSE IMMEDIATELY FOR YOUR SAFEY.
- Do not wait for things to get “better.” Once the process of extortion and violence starts, they only get hungry for more and more. It will NOT GET BETTER! It will only worse! You need to get out soon.
- See Anshu Singh’s Story – she was murdered just 45 days after her wedding. In that short time she took out (lakhs) huge amounts in loan from the multinational company she was working with to pay her in-laws.
3. Make Sure The Wedding Is Legally Registered Before The Traditional Ceremony:
- Most Indian families focus on a fancy and traditional Indian wedding and neglect to get an official registration.
- Indian laws on religion based traditional marriages are very murky. There have been situations where the families of women killed for dowry have been unable to press charges because they could not prove that the couples were even married.
- Therefore we would strongly emphasize that an official registration MUST BE DONE BEFORE the traditional wedding.
- Make sure that the registration is done by a properly certified government official. Make sure you have a few copies of the official certificate, stamped and notarized, and that a copy of this document is in the safekeeping of the bride’s family as well.
3. Do A Pre-Nuptial To Register Everything Given In Gift To The Bride As ‘Stree-Dhan’:
- The reason for ALL dowry murders is extortion, blackmail and grand larceny. [See our War on Dowry campaign].
- The reason violence is inflicted on the bride is to put pressure on her and her family to keep meeting the financial demands of the husband and the in-laws. But the reason the bride is murdered is because legally in India it is easier to get away with murder than with divorce! If the bride gets a divorce, she can demand her money and goods back from her in-laws. But if she is murdered, the in-laws know only too well, that most cases of dowry murder are not even properly investigated by the police. They are written off as ‘suicide’ or ‘accident’ and the case is closed!!
- Dowry murders happen in two situations. One, when the bride’s family gets tired of the never-ending blackmail, and finally often after 4-5 years of the marriage decides it cannot keep giving any more. Then the bride is of no “use” to the in-laws. Often her parents do not want her back either because they see the money they’ve given as ‘payment’ to the in-laws to ‘keep’ her. That’s when the husband and in-laws will kill her.
- In middle and upper class homes, where the bride’s parents might take her back and help her get a divorce, killing the bride before she leaves her husband, is the perfect and chilling way to ensure that her husband and in-laws get to keep all the money and goods they’ve extorted from her. This way they also make sure that the bride is not around to try to get her money back!
- The best way to prevent this from happening is to register everything that the bride’s family gives as ‘gifts’ to the bride. It is illegal to give or take dowry. But a bride’s parents can gift her things in cash and kind for her wedding, which are her sole property and are called ‘Stree-Dhan.’ Families of Brides must take advantage of this law to protect themselves.
- That way, even if dowry violence and threats begin after the wedding the bride can safely leave the marriage and make sure she or her family get back all the gifts given to her.
- It also is a disincentive to grooms and their families who are likely to extort and kill. Since money is their prime motive, a legally tight arrangement that prevents them from getting their hands on the money – gives them no incentive to continue with the wedding.
- So before the wedding, the bride’s family must insist on a legal documentation of all the things they have given as gifts as stree dhan.
- We would also strongly recommend that you consult your lawyers, and have both the bride and the groom sign a PRENUPTIAL clause that everything that is stree dhan must be returned to the woman or her parents should the marriage break up or if the woman leaves the marriage or dies. In the clause indicate everything that you will regard as stree-dhan. Keep detailed records and bills of everything gifted of value before, during and after the wedding. Families must make sure their daughters’ signatures are taken as proof of acceptance each time, and the list is kept with her parents.
- If the groom’s family is unwilling to be party to the legal documentation of stree dhan and the clause of its return then the bride’s family has every reason to be suspicious of their motives. Please do not proceed with this marriage.
5. File A Police Report Against The Family That Makes A Dowry Demand:
- If a prospective groom’s family makes a dowry demand, do not agree to that marriage arrangement. BUT ALSO PLEASE file a report against them with the police, so they will think twice before harassing another family.
- Simply asking for dowry is punishable under law and can get you 2 years of imprisonment and a fine of Rs.10,000/-
- Be a part of our fight to end this terribly ugly, and brutal tradition! Your action against dowry demanders will protect the life of many young women in India.
SEE OUR OTHER DOWRY RELATED POSTS
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