Dowry remains fundamental problem in India: Study

Written by PTI | London | Updated: Nov 20 2013, 06:40am hrs
Dowry-related domestic abuse of women is still widely prevalent in India despite the country's modernisation and years of feminist campaigning, research conducted by a British university has found.

The study by the University of Portsmouth's School of Languages and Area Studies found that giving a dowry is still regularly practised in parts of the country, leading to gender inequalities on a wide scale.

The research carried out in Kerala also showed that mothers-in-law were the main harassers and perpetrators of violence against young women, nearly 50 per cent of the time.

"Our findings depressingly show that little has improved in the last decade, and dowry remains a fundamental problem in women's lives. The data shows that investing energy in securing better gender equality has not decreased rates of dowry and related abuse," said lead researcher Dr Tamsin Bradley.

"Our research highlights that many women, once they reach the status of mother-in-law, are so invested in the patriarchal system that they become the main harassers and perpetrators of violence against young women," she added.

"Dowry is shown to shape a marriage system that limits women's opportunities as well as subjecting them to high instances of abuse," she said in reference to her latest study, which involved interviews with different age groups of both men and women.

The older women said young brides not being properly prepared for marriage nor being able or willing to fit in with the behaviour of their new family were key factors contributing to domestic violence.

Of the younger women who reported experience of abuse, 45 per cent said their mother-in-law was the perpetrator of the violence.

The study was conducted in Engandiyour village in Kerala and was split into two phases.

The first phase involved structured interviews with 47 women and eight men under the age of 35, from various religions and social class groupings.

The participants were asked 20 questions about their experiences of married life and the part dowry played in this.

The women were also asked whether they had experienced any form of violence, physical or psychological.

During the second phase, researchers conducted in-depth interviews with three focus groups, seven women aged 18-35, a local prominent marriage broker, and two members of a high profile women's organisation in Kerala.

The three focus groups comprised a local women's self-help group whose members were aged 40-60, a group of women aged 18-35, and a group of three Hindu male community leaders.

Although most of the men interviewed supported the practice of dowry and didnt see it as a problem, their views differed on the role of the woman once she is married, with some men supporting the idea of a married woman working and advancing her education.

Some of the younger men seemed indifferent at the thought of dowry not being practised.

Dr Bradley believes this is a positive sign, and suggests the way forward includes engaging more with men, especially younger men, whose views about dowry could be influenced for the better.