The Human Impact

India’s greed for dowries lies at heart of many abuses against women

Bride Kalpana and groom Bhavin Munjpara exchange wedding vows inside a hospital in Ahmedabad

The customs and traditions of our forefathers – performed during festivals and on special occasions such as births, weddings and funerals – can be beautiful, reminding us of a life past.

However, one custom in India has been exploited over the years so much that today it is directly responsible for the death of a woman every hour, and the mental and physical torture of countless others.

Despite being outlawed more than half a century ago, the custom of dowry continues unabated – promoting the view that girls and women are a liability and resulting in abuse, discrimination and murder.

Dowries – traditionally gold jewellery that parents give to their daughter when she marries – have turned into a commercial enterprise in India, with the groom’s family demanding “gifts” in return for marriage.

The demands – which range from cash, jewellery and smart phones, to motorcycles, cars and even property – place extreme financial pressure on the bride and her parents not only at the time of marriage, but even after, as the greed continues.

From the sickening to the bizarre, Indian politicians still don’t get rape

A member of the Communist Party of India-Marxist uses an iPad to take pictures of a  protest rally in Kolkata

 

Covering women’s rights issues for so many years in India, I still find the number of ways women and girls are abused and discriminated against unfathomable.

From their discrimination in accessing health care, education and employment opportunities, to their brutal rapes and murders. From having acid thrown in their faces, to being trafficked for domestic or sexual slavery. From their suicides due to dowry demands, to their molestation on buses and trains. It often feels like a bottomless pit.

The December 2012 murder and gang rape of a 23-year-old physiotherapist on a bus in Delhi jolted many in India out of complacency, and helped bring about greater awareness of violence against women in the country.

Deadly Indian landslide may have been a man-made disaster

A resident looks at the debris of her damaged house after a landslide at Malin village in Maharashtra

landslide in western India that has killed more than 100 people and left scores missing may have been a man-made disaster caused by deforestation to make way for farming, experts say.

Hopes of finding survivors are fading after heavy rains triggered Wednesday’s landslide, burying dozens of homes in the village of Malin in India’s Maharashtra state.

While the blame falls on India’s crucial yet often deadly monsoons – which annually trigger landslides and floods – geologists and environmentalists said the tragedy was avoidable.

Ending the beatings, rapes, murders: Where are India’s men?

Violence against women is widespread across the world. Globally, 35 percent of women have been beaten by an ‘intimate partner’ or suffered sexual violence at the hands of a non-partner in their lifetime, the World Health Organisation says.

The same research suggests that almost one third of women who have been in a relationship have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of their partner, and that some 38 percent of all murders of women are committed by their husband or boyfriend.

In India, the situation is little better. The International Centre for Research on Women reports that 37 percent of men surveyed admit to inflicting violence on their intimate partner.

Using rape as an excuse for moral policing in India

The conversation has changed in India since that horrific night in December 2012 when a young woman returning home after watching a movie at the cinema was gang raped on a moving bus and left to die on the streets of the Indian capital.

The crime – which triggered outrage amongst urban Indians who took to the streets to protest – acted as a turning point, forcing many in India to face up to the widespread violence inflicted on women and girls in this largely patriarchal nation.

Discussions about rape, acid attacks, sexual harassment, molestation, dowry murders and female foeticide are now no longer just confined to civil society groups, feminists and academics but are being widely debated in the mainstream media and even amongst the usually apathetic political classes.

Gender injustice: When Indian judges get it wrong

An Indian judge who called pre-marital sex “immoral” and against “the tenets of every religion” has been criticised by activists who say his remarks highlight gender insensitivity within the judiciary and the challenges faced by victims of sex crimes in seeking justice.

Judge Virender Bhat, who presides over a fast-track court which hears cases of sexual offences, made the remarks after ruling in one case that there was insufficient evidence that a man had duped a woman into having sex with him by promising marriage.

According to the Indian Penal Code, a man who has sexual intercourse with a woman after obtaining her consent on the false promise of marriage is committing rape.

Why India’s Mars mission matters, despite poverty

There has been much fanfare over the launch of India’s first rocket to Mars – a mission which, if successful, will position the Asian nation as a major player in the global space race.

For days last week, local television news channels broadcast constant updates as the Indian Space Research Organisation readied to send “Mangalyaan” – the “Mars-craft” – to the red planet.

The orbiter’s mission is to reach Mars by September and map some of the planet’s surface and test for methane, a possible marker of life.

India’s surrogacy tourism: exploitation or empowerment?

In a globalised world where everything at home is becoming more costly, outsourcing your needs to a third party thousands of miles away for less money makes a lot of sense.

For a country like India, one of the top global destinations for outsourcing, the benefits are tremendous – creating millions of jobs in sectors ranging from garment, software and car manufacturing to call centres and back office operations.

But over the last decade, a more controversial sector for outsourcing has emerged in India: pregnancy and childbirth.

Why the India gang rape verdict doesn’t bring closure

In life she had one name. But in death she has many. Some call her “Nirbhaya”  meaning fearless in Hindi, others refer to her as “Amanat” meaning treasure or “Damini” meaning lightening.

Many in the Indian media just call her “India’s Braveheart” or “India’s daughter” – symbolising the fact that she could have been any one of us. Any woman or girl in this country, where the threat of abuse – verbal, physical or sexual – is horrifyingly real.

On that night of December 16, six assailants raped her on a bus as it moved through the streets of New Delhi. They tortured her with an iron rod, stripped her naked, dragged her by the hair and threw her out onto the road in the cold.

How old is old enough to be jailed for gang rape and murder?

The crime was horrific, the case shocking, and the trial long. Yet when the much anticipated first verdict in the high-profile Delhi gang rape case was pronounced in India over the weekend, there was no jubilation, just outrage.

Found guilty of the gang rape and murder of a student on a bus in December, the teenager – one of six accused – was sentenced to three years in a juvenile home, sparking anger and debate over whether India is too soft on its young offenders. Four adult defendants are on trial in a separate fast-track court. One of the accused committed suicide in jail.

The first reaction came from the parents of the dead 23-year-old student, who was beaten, tortured with an iron rod and raped on the night of Dec. 16 before being dumped on a roadside in the capital.

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