On March 27, 1984, "The Times of India" reported that in Delhi, "a bride is burnt to death every twelve hours." 2 The number of dowry deaths has steadily increased in the 1980s and 1990s. Even though the official number of dowry deaths rose from 6,758 in 1996 to 7,543 in 1997,3unofficial estimates of dowry deaths figure around a staggering 25,000 annually. 4 Classical socialist feminist traditions have inadequately addressed the widespread prevalence of this social practice. Drawing from primary and secondary sources, this article reconceptualizes and reframes the "legitimate" practice of dowry from a modifiedsocialist feminist perspective. A modified capitalist patriarchal approach that includes caste and religion is necessary to expound the primacy of the phenomenon. As well, this critique suggests recommendations for social change. For: Through the eyes of women It is another way of seeing It is another way of knowing 5
* This theoretical piece is based on the author's Master's degree thesis in Sociology (1996) from Queen's University at Kingston, Ontario, Canada. 1 Asian Women's Human Rights Council; 1995: Introduction (emphasis added). 2TheTimesof India, March 27, 1984. 3 Domestic Violence: Statistics, 2002; http://www.harvard.edu/grhf/Sasia/resources.dv/statistics.html 4 Himendra Thakur, H., "Are our sisters and daughters for sale?" Http://www.indiatogether.orgl wehost/nodowri/ stats.htm (1999).
5 Asian Women's Human Rights Council; 1995: Introduction. �' Chhaya Datar, The5"trugoleAgainstVinlence (Calcutta: Strcc, 1993), 4.
� Eisenstein, Capitali.stI'atriarchy,22-23. 13 Eisenstein, CapitalistPatriarchy,25. 14 Eisenstein, CapitalistPatriarchy,24. 15 marina Mies (1986). PatriarchyandAccumulationonaWorldScale:WomeniretheInternationalI?iaisionof labour (London: Zed Books Ltd., 1986), 27. 16 Mies, Patriarchy,27. 1� Karl-Heinz Kraemer, "Civl society, democracy and human rights in Nepal: observa- tions from a distance," http://www.nepalresearch.com/publications/MartinChautari_9902.htm. I� Karl-Heinz Kraemer, C'irril.
19 Mies, Patriarchy,26. 20 bid. 21 Dorothy Smith, TheEverydayWorldasProblematic:AFerninistSocioloy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987), 2. 22 Sandra Harding, FeminismandMethodology (Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1987), 188.
There are several theories and differing opinions regarding the origin of the caste system. The earliest mention of the caste institution is made in the Rigveda around 1400 B.C., in which the theory of "divine origin" states that the Byahmin emanated from the mouth of the Creator, the lishatriya from the arm, the Papa from the thigh and the Sudra from the feet [T.R. Sareen and S.R. Bakshi, India7-hroughAges:AncientCultureandCivilization (Vol. 1, New Delhi: Anmol Publications, 1992), 31]; [J.H. Hutton, CasteinIndia:ItsNature,FunctionandOrigans (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1946), 128]; [G.S. Ghurye, Caste,Class,andOccupation (Bombay: Popular Book Depot, 1961), 43]; [N.K. Dutt, OriganandGrowthqfCasteinIndia (Calcutta: Firma K.L. Mukhopadhyay, 1968), f-30], cites theories of caste based on colour or 'vama' [H. Risley, "Tribes and Castes of Bengal", OriginandGrowthofCosteinIndia, by N.K. Dutt (Vol. 1 Calcutta: Firma K.L. Mukhopadhyay, 1891), 13-14]; [H. Risley, "The People of India," OriginandGrowthof Ca.steinIndia, by N.K. Dutt (Vol. 1, Calcutta: Firma K.L. Mukhopadhyay, 1915): 13-14]; [Hutton, Caste], race, occupation [J.C. Ncsficld, "Brief View of the Caste System of the North Western Provinces and Oudh," OriginandGrowthofCasteinIndia, Vol. 1, N.K. Dutt, 1968 (Calcutta: Firma K.L. Mukhopadhyay, 1885), 20-23] and tribalism [E.A. Westermarck, "History of Human Marriage," 5th ed., OriginandCrrorethof Caste,inIndia Vol. 1, N.K. Dutt, 1968 (Calcutta: Firma K.L Mukhopadhyay, 1921), 23]. While Sareen and Bakshi argue that caste was basically a non-Aryan tradition (India, 29-40), [E. Senart, "Caste in India, Translated, OriganandGroze�thofCasteinIndia, Vol. 1, N.K. Dutt, 1968 (Calcutta: Firma K.L. Mukhopadhyay, 1930), 16-18]; G.S. Ghurye emphasizes that the caste system, was gradually the result of Indo-Aryan contact (Caste, 159-177). The original four-fold varna (colour) or class system of Rigvedic society seems to coincide with the caste system. "Post- vedic scholars have interpreted the nature of the 'vama' in terms of the caste system as they knew it" (Hutton, Caste, 59). Thus the varna system, which was more fluid, wider and vaguer than the caste system gradually gave rise to thousands of sub-castes or jatis' (Hutton, Caste, 57). In this essay, I discuss caste under the four broad categories already cited. The untouchable/scheduled castes are outside the domain of the four main caste groups. 24 Joanna Liddle and Rama Joshi, DaughtersofIndependence:Gender,CasteandClassinIndia (London: Zed Books Ltd., 1986), 58. z5 Karma in Hindu philosophy denotes "that the circumstances of birth depend on previous actions" (Liddle and Joshi; 1986), 58. 26 Liddle and Joshi, Daughter,58.
27 Liddle and Joshi, Daughters,70. 28 Liddle and Joshi, Daughters,58. riddle and Joshi, Daughters,70. 3o Patricia Caplan, Cla.s.sandGenderinIndia:WomenandtheirOrganizationsinaSouthIndianCity (London: Tavistock Publications, 1985), 6. 31 Liddle and Joshi, Daughters, p. 70. 32 Patricia Caplan, ClassandGenderinIndia, 26. 33 Puddle and Joshi, Daughters,61. 1. 34 Personal interview with Professor Jayant Lete, Department of Sociology, Queen's University at Kingston, Ontario, Canada on August 25, 1996. 35I restrict the analysis to Liddle and Joshi's explanation of the "congmence" of the interaction between caste and class and focus on the urban middle class as being pivotal to the dowry menace. As a result, I do not consider other macro levels such as regionalism and language divisions as a part of the analysis but view the dowry system as a national
problem. Furthermore, the practice of dowry like other forms of violence (rape, spousal abuse, and murder), despite the micro levels of education, occupation, income, and property cuts across class. 36 M.N. Srinivas, SomeReflectionsonDowny (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1984). 37 patricia Caplan, ClassandGender,1 1.
3$ Mies, Patriarcfy,23. 39 Mies, Patriarchy,38. 4� Mies, Patriarchy,41. 1. 4� Mies, Patriarchy, 110. 4� Ibid. 43 Ibid. 44I confine myself to the three religions namely, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity even though there are other religions such as Sikhism, Jainism, and Buddhism that arc a part of the belief systems in India.
45 NanditaGandhiand.NanditaShah,TheIssue.satStake:TheoryandPracticeintheContemporaryWomen'sMoaementInIndia (New Delhi: Kali For Women, 1992), 32. 46 Gandhi and Shah, Issues,33. 47 Supriya Akerkar, Theory and Practice of Women's Movement in India. EconomicandPoliticalWeekly, April 29, 1995, 17. 48 Gandhi and Shah, Issues,21. 1. 49 Gandhi and Shah, Issues,22.
50 Bina Agarwal, StructuresofPatriarchyState,Community,andHouseholdinModernizingAsia, L. Dube (Ed.) (New Delhi: Kali, 1988), 20. 51 For the evolution of dowry during pre-colonial and colonial periods see Edith Samuel's Master's thesis on DowryandDowryharassment:AnAssessmentbasedonModifiedCapitalistPatriarchy (1996), Department of Sociology, Queen's University at Kingston, Ontario, Canada. 52 Bride-price is usually a sum of money paid by the husband's kin to the woman's kin to compensate for the loss of her services in her natal home. This practice was usually followed by most lower castes/classes in pre-colonial and colonial India.
53 Kalpana Ram (1991). Capitalism and Marriage Payments. In MukkucarWomen:Gender,HegemonyandCapitalistAccumulation, 185-199 (Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1991), 185. 54 M.N. Srinivas, CasteInModernIndia (London: Asia Publishing House, 1962), 50. 55 Srinivas, Castle,50. 56 Andre Beteille (1969). Castes:OldandNerxr.EssaysinSocialStructureAndSocialStratification (Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1969), 127. 57 M.N. Srinivas, The Changing Position of Indian Women, Man (1977), 12: 229, 331. 1. 5� Beregowda in Srinivas, Refections,21. 1 . 59 M.N. Srinivas, SomeR�ectionsonDozerry (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1984), 22. so Srinivas, Reflections, 11-12. 61 Srinivas, Reflections,10.
62 Ram, Capitalisrn, 185. 63 Mies, I'atriarchy, 162. 64 Madhu Kishwar, "Dowry - To Ensure her Happiness or to Disinherit Her?" Manushi (1986) 34, 19. 6'' Liddle and Joshi, Daughter,72. 66 Mies, Patriarchy, 160. 6� Gail Omvedt, Violence:againstWomen:NemMovementsand NewTheoriesinIndia (New Delhi: Kali for Women, 1990), 5. 68 Liddle and Joshi, Daughters, 59. 69 Liddle and Joshi, Daughters,I .
'4 Omvedt, hiolence,5. Ursula Sharma, Dowry in North India: Its Consequences for women. In Renee Hirschon (Ed.), WomenarulProperty-Lvomen asProperty (1984) 62-73, New York: St. Martin's Press, 67-68. �6 Srinivas, Reflections,23. 77 "In India, astrological charts of two people are compared before any marriage is arranged. There are strict guidelines laid down in Vedic Texts" (Vedic Astrology: /;«/;.7/K'K'K'.�m///a.fam//)at;<'j/!YW:�4�?'o/o�./! The configuration of the planets in the
Zodiac chart enables astrologers to gauge positive and negative aspects of the two people's life and this inestimable guidance promotes valued judgements about their future. Srinivas,, Reflections,25. �y "Muslims are the second largest community in India... mostly converts from Hinduism and as such have been heavily influenced by Hinduism and Hindu culture" [Muniza Rafiq Khan, Socio-LegalStatusOf MuslimWnmen (New Delhi: Radiant Publishers, 1993)], 37. 80 paras Diwan (1987), DownyandProtectiontoMarriedWomen (New Delhi: Deep and Deep Publications, 1987), 136. 81 Archana Parashar, WomenandHamilyI awReforminIndia (London: Sage, 1992), 167. 82 Khan, Socio-1--gal,37. �� T.S. Devadoss, HinduFamilyandMarriage (Madras: University of Madras, 1995), 109. 84 Khan, Socio-Iegal,37. $5 "The association of St. Thomas with Mylapore (San Thome) and the existence of a Persian cross on St. Thomas's Mount dating to the seventh or eighth century provide evidence of a long-standing Christian presence in and around what is now Madras [Chennai] city." [Lioncl Caplan, ClassandCultureinUrbanIndia:FundamentalisminaChristiansCommunize (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), 19].
forester, D., CasteandChristianity:AttitudesandPoliciesonCasteof Anglo-SaxonProtestantMissionsinIndia (London: Curzon Press, 1979), 14. 87 Forrester, CasteandChristianity,14. 8� The influence of Christian missionaries began in 1535 with the arrival of the Portuguese Jesuits on the Malabar (Western) and Coromandel (Eastern) coasts of South India (Kalpana Ram, "Capitalism and Marriage Payments," MukkuvarWomen:Gender,HegemonyandCapitalistAccumulation, 1991, Sydney: Allen and Unwin), 30. 89 Ram, Capitalism,30. 90 Ram, Capitalism,32. 91 bid. In afFiliating the history of Christianity with caste society, Forrester writes: "What must never be neglected is that a conversion movement is like a kind of group identity crises, in which a group passes through a negative rejection of their lowly place in Hindu society to a positive affirmation of a new social and religious identity" (CasteandChristianity, 1979), 71. 92 "the Syrian Christians of Kerala claim conversion to Christianity at the hands of Jesus Christ's disciple Thomas Didymus, traditionally believed to have established seven churches in the first century" (Jamila Verghese, HerGoldandherBody, New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House Pvt. Ltd; 1980), n. 6: 201. 93 Verghese, Gold, 121; Ram, Capitalism,33.
the 1994 uneven geographical distribution of dowry deaths officially recorded in regional states were: Andhra Pradesh (396), Assam (13), Bihar (296), Gujarat (105), Haryana (191), Himachal Pradesh (4), Jammu and Kashmir (1), Karnataka (170), Kerala (9), Madhya Pradesh (354), Maharashtra (519), Nagaland (2), Orrisa (169), Punjab (117), Rajasthan (298), Tamilnadu (83), Tripura (6), Uttar Pradesh (1977), West Bengal (349), Andaman and Nicobar (1), Chandigarh (3), Delhi (132), and Pondicherry (4) totaling to 5199 (National Crimes Bureau, Home Ministry; Myj:i�)�.'//73/A<�.'//!�K'K).:n�:astats.htm. However, as stated earlier, these are only the resorted cases. Thousands of dowry deaths go unreported. looDomestic Violence: Statistics, 2002; http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/grhj/Sasia/resources.dv/statistics.html 101 Thakur, H., "6 Point Program to Eradicate Dowry and Bride-Burning in India." 77<�.'/ / tMt�. 7 �orMcommMM:ca (1999). 102 Gandhi and Shah, Issues,53. 103 Cited in Mies, Capitalist, 157. �04 Ghadially, R. and P. Kumar, "Bride-Burning: The Psycho-Social Dynamics of Dowry- Deaths." WomeninIndianSociety (ed.) Rehana Ghadially (New Delhi, Sage Publications, 1988), 167-177. 105 Mies, Patriarchy,160.
116 bid. 107 Ibid. 108 Mies, Patriarchy,161. '0' Mies, Patriarchy,162. 110 mines, Patriarchy, 162. 111 Madhu Kishwar, "Dowry --- To Ensure her Happiness or to Disinherit Her?" Manu.shi 34, (1986): 14-21.
1 2 Kishwar, Dore�ry,16. � �3 Madhu Kishwar, "Towards More Just Norms For Marriage," Manushi 58, (1989): 25- 26. 114 A "bridal palanquin" is a conveyance of an enclosed litter, used for the bride, borne on the shoulders of men by means of poles. 115 Kishwar, Dowry,21. 1. 116 6 Kishwar, Doze�ry,18. 117 Fergus Bordewich, "Dowry Murders," AtlanticMagazine (1986), July, 24. 118 Ranjana Kumari, BridesarenotjorBurning:DowryvictimsinIndian (New Delhi: Radiant Publishers, 1989). � �� Basheer, B., DorerryandDowryHarassment (1992), Master's Thesis, Criminology Depart- ment, University of Madras.
172 Smith, Everyday,22. 153 personal interview with Professor Sundaram, Sociology department, Chennai Univer- sity, South India, August 25, 1995. 154 Elizabeth Stanko, IntimateIntrusions:Women'sExperienceqfMaleViolence, London: Routledge (1985): 57. 155 Stanko, Intimate,57. 156 Ibid. �'t Nahida Shaikh, SpecialC.elltoHelpWomenandGhildren. University of Mysore: Indian Association for Women's Studies (1993) MayJune. �5� Basheer, Domry,73.
16� Ibid. 165 lbid. 166 Kumar, History,118. 167 Tarvinder Kaur was a woman who was murdered for dowry in Delhi in 1978. The case was reported as a suicide. This incident initiated India's first demonstrations against dowry by women's organizations in 1979. (Madhu Kishwar, "laws against Domestic Violence: U nderused or Abused?" 24 June, 2002, http: I (freespeech.o�gl manushil1201 domestic.htm�. 168 Kumar, History,119. 169 Ibid. � �� Ibid.
� � � Ibid. 172 Kumar, History,120. 173 Gandhi and Shah, Issues,94. ��4 Gandhi and Shah, Issues,99.
175 Cited in Gandhi and Shah, Issues,99. 176 Ibid. 177 Ibid. 178 Gandhi and Shah, Issues,99.
183 Ibid. 184 Kumar, History, 124. ��5 Ghadially and Kumar, Bride-burning,176. � 86 Ibid. 187 A Canadian dollar is c:urrently worth about 30 Indian Rupees. 1�� Ghadially and Kumar, Bride-burning,176. Women. and Development Programme, "Confronting Violence," AManual forCommon-wealthAction. London, (1992): 137.
190Manual, 138. 191 Ibid. 192 Cited in Gandhi and Shah, Issues, 93.
193 Cited in Gandhi and Shah; Issues, 100. 194 Gandhi and Shah, Issues,100.
195 Martha Gladstone, ResortoftheProceedingsofPublicHearingonPiolenceagainstWomen, Madras: Initiatives for Women in Development, (1995), 1. �y6 Under State law, Hindus, Muslims and Christians each have their own personal laws and are "governed by their respective religious laws in matters of uccession. In the laws of all these communities, women have less rights than men in corresponding situations" (Parashar, Women, 17-18). In Muslim personal law, "female heirs generally take half the share of the male heir; so the status of a Muslim woman in the field of inheritance could hardly be said to be an emancipated one" [Rama Mehta, Socio-LegalStatusofWomeninIndia (Delhi: Mittal Publications 1987), 117]. Further, neither educated nor uneducated Muslim women claim their shares "because of their social and family relationship with brothers" (Khan, ,Socio-Legal, 70), In Christian personal law, the Supreme Court in 1986, in a judgment in the Mary Roy case, declared that women could share equally with their brothers in the property of their fathers. This enactment particularly applied to the Syrian Christians who paid 'ridiculous' amounts of dowry (Parashar; Women, 190). But patriarchal religious leaders vehemently opposed the enactment, giving religious personal law a higher status than non-religious civil law (Parashar, Women, 192). This opposition "is a clear illustration of how the power of religion is used to perpetuate male privilege" (Parashar, Womerc, 191). 197 Streedhan generally refers to any gift voluntarily given to the woman, by her family, at the time of marriage. 198 Gandhi and Shah, Issues,92.
199 Krishna Bala, "Marriage and Violence: An Analysis of cruelty related to the practice of Dowry," Womenandhiolence (ed.) Niroj Sinha, New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House (1989), 89. 200 Gandhi and Shah, Issues,92. lo� Rajni Palriwala, "the Continuing Relevance of Anti-Dowry Struggles," Women'sEqua-lity, 2 (1): 29-31. 202 Gandhi and Shah, Issues,92.
2«3 KrishnaKumari and Geetha, Areport, ix.
204 The International Society Against Dowry And Bride-Burning In India (ISADABBI), chaired by Himcndra Thakur has put forward a six-point program to eradicate dowry and bride-burning in India in 1999: "1. Major economic program: Long-term plan: a) Enforce mandatory education for females for financial independence and autonomy. b) Originate a 'Service Loan Fund' to provide low-interest loans to wage-earning males who wish to pay-off their parents thereby preventing the possibility of parents' claim of dowry as a compensation of expenses in raising and educating their sons. c) Originate an 'Old-Age Fund' in India to finance old people thereby eliminating their dependence upon their sons. 2. National support groups: Long-term plan: a) Organize and operate 'Students against dowry' mutual support groups for male and female students and fresh graduates (i) to promote the resolve of refusal of marriage if there is dowry and (ii) to support their struggle against parental pressure for demand/acceptance/giving of dowry. t) Organize and operate
'Parents against dowry' mutual support groups of those who oppose the dowry system and whose daughters have been victims of dowry. 3. Research and mass communication: Long-term plan: a) Promote research to identify and diagnose the dowry problem in India, hold interviews, group/panel discussions, meetings, seminars, conferences, internet discussions and recommend legal, psychological, spiritual and social remedies to eradicate dowry and bride-burning. b) Promote mass communication and education programs to publicize anti-dowry ideology through drama, music, movies, radio and television programs, books, periodicals, journals, handbills and other audio-visual media. 4. Micro-economic approach: Long-term plan: This item will be developed to diagnose the dowry problem by micro-economic studies and recommend ways and means to combat the subtle micro-economic forces like demand, supply, greed, etc. which sustain the dowry problem. 5. Legal Approach: Long-term plan: a) Reformative law - reform the Indian legal system to enforce a daughter's inheritance rights to the estates of her parents, forefathers and other ancestors. b) Preventive law - enhance the Indian legal system to declare a marriage null and void as soon as dowry is demanded and compensate the divorced bride with half of the estate of her ex-husband. 6. Immediate life-saving mechanism: a) Construct dignified, high-rise, secured and protected buildings in a number of towns/cities and operate Job Centre for Dowry Victims' equipped with telephone hot-lines attended by specialists trained to handle distress calls where a dowry victim will receive effective security, respectable accommodation, food, clothing, legal protection, medical care, psychological and spiritual care, sports and recreational facilities, job-oriented training until she is qualified to find a job and qualified to lead a financially independent life. b) construct dignified, high-rise, secured and protected buildings for financially independent working women ['6-point program to eradicate Dowry and Bride-Burning in India,' (1999)]," htlp:llrawze�lpsy.kuleuaen.ac.belincap/ Home/ Dowry/ ISADABBl/isadabbi.html (June, 2002). To what extent this plan has been carried out or implemented warrants inquiry.
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