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Thinking of Another Step Further Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by SASWATI PAIK, India Feb 26, 2007
Human Rights   Opinions


Thinking of Another Step Further

“Better late than never” – the Supreme Court in India has ordered compulsory registration of marriages irrespective of religion. I think, it is high time to declare the equal property right of girls a compulsion by the Supreme Court immediately. The States in India must be ordered to make the equal property right of girls an open secret and a compulsion in each family. Until and unless that is not implemented as compulsion, the practice of ‘dowry’ can not be restricted in our country.

If compulsory registration of marriages could be implemented strictly long back, we might have saved many girls from undue harassment in their married life. Girls get married, get harassed by their in laws, they don’t know where to complain, how to complain, why to complain. Because in Indian society, girls are still brought up to get married, to give birth of children and to rear children, not to be honoured by their education, job and social empowerment. Forget about the urban chunk of privileged lucky girls, I am talking about those who are still brought up in the rural and sub-urban areas, in very ordinary, middle class, lower middle class or poor families. Once get married, they are mostly dependent on husband and in laws. If get harassed by husband or by in laws, most of the married girls don’t have any chance to return to her parents; because by that time her brothers occupy the paternal property and least bother about their sister who is already married and not a share holder of her parents’ property.

How most of the girls are treated in traditional Indian families? Their birth is a burden to the family, because we still nurture the practice of ‘Dowry’, so sons are ‘great’ to us, not the girls. We bring up the girls ‘traditionally’, even if get educated we insulate them by a coating of all sorts of so called ‘traditions’! Sometimes traditions overpower the rights, especially to those who are less educated, less enlightened, less privileged and less analytic. Even this insulation can be so powerful that the persons may forget to protest or analyse.

Dowry system is practiced all over India, in name of religious traditions, social custom etc etc. What’s the logic behind ‘dowry’? They are hundreds in number. Dowry is shown as ‘very logical practice’ when the girls are not working….the son in law is eligible for dowry as he takes the ‘burden’ of a girl and at the same time, relieves the father of the girl from the ‘burden’. Of course the rate of dowry again varies as per the beauty of the girl, features and service of the groom and above all as per the ‘family reputation’ of the groom.

Now dowry receivers and givers both party have a different manner to talk on this deal. None says they have taken dowry, rather the style is ‘we have got ……’ or ‘the girl’s father has given….’. On the other hand, bride’s father says ‘we have given……..’. The tradition remains the same, bride’s father will be obedient to groom’s father and will pay the cost, but dealing in a different manner. The groom’s party also keeps themselves ‘clean’ from all these, dealing the matrimonial alliance with the help of middlemen who have professional expertise in matrimonial bargain. Still it is a good sign. At least some people are ashamed by this tradition, and trying to hide it. But, why don’t the fathers take initiative to distribute his properties equally among children? Why don’t our country take a special initiative to campaign in favour of equal property right of the girls? If depriving the girls from their equal property rights is declared to be a punishable affair, then many problems might be solved or at least reduced.

We shout for ‘women empowerment’. But whom to empower? How to empower? Let us try to convey to each of the women what the ‘power’ exactly they deserve from their own country, own society and own family. Can’t the Supreme Court take a revolutionary step to save them?

If we can generate awareness among the people about HIV/AIDS, literacy campaign, family planning etc through popular media like television, radio etc, why there is no initiative at all to spread the message to the women about their rights, especially their equal property rights?



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Writer Profile

Saswati Paik, completed Post graduation in Geography in 1996 and went through Research Training Programme in Centre for Studies in Social Sciences (CSSSC, Kolkata, India) under Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR). She completed M.Phil in Geography from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi in 2000. Now she is about to finish her Ph.D. in Geography from the same university. She has several articles, published in magazines and newspapers and has presented numerous research papers in workshops, seminars and conferences of university, national and international levels. She has actively participated in various training programmes and workshops related to her academic field. She has work experience of about 6 years. She has worked in ‘GISdevelopment’, the monthly magazine published from Noida (India). She has worked as Researcher in State Resource Centre, Haryana (India) and as Faculty in Hamdard Education Society, New Delhi (India). She was associated with Centre for Science, Development and Media Studies (CSDMS) and as a part of her job profile, has worked as a member of the editorial team of ‘i4d’, the monthly magazine published by CSDMS, Noida (India). She has also occasionally contributed write-ups to the magazine, some of those are available at their website www.i4donline.net.
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