An Introduction: By Himendra Thakur
This is an urgent appeal to the people of India "do something" about stopping dowry and bride-burning in India. It is estimated
that about 25,000 brides are killed or maimed every year in India over dowry disputes, a number that exceeds 21,000 civilians killed or maimed in
land-mine accidents every year all over the world.
understand how India, a seat of an ancient civilization, could fall into a decadence of such a magnitude, we invited professionals and scholars of Indian studies to the "First International Conference on Dowry
and Bride-Burning in India" held at Harvard University from September 30 to October 2, 1995. A "Six Point Program to Eradicate Dowry and Bride-Burning in India" (abbreviated as "Program"
hereinafter) was initiated in this Conference. Some bacground of the discussions are described below.
Dowry and Bride-Burning (I see this as a singular noun) is an enormous problem in a country of a huge
population. Individual efforts may be wasted unless we all work with a centralized, well organized, practical plan. The "Program" was further discussed and revised at the "Second",
"Third" and "Fourth International Conference" held at Harvard University and London University in 1996, 1997 and 1998.
The "Program" is still under discussion. When we are
fighting against a social evil with deep roots in our history, culture and tradition, it is not easy to find a quick solution. I request everyone to examine the latest version of the "Six Point Program"
appended below and please offer your criticism and suggestions so that, working together, we may prepare a practical "Program" to eradicate this evil from India.
After preparing the "Program",
we will also plan for its implementation. Individual efforts should be planned in such a way that every little "effort" will add up into a huge national program that will wipe off the tears from the face
of Mother India.
With the best wishes,
Chair, Board of Directors
International Society Against Dowry and Bride-Burning in India, Inc.
"SIX POINT PROGRAM TO ERADICATE DOWRY AND BRIDE-BURNING IN INDIA"
[ Note: The discussion on the "Six Point
Program" was started by Dr. Julia Leslie (Dean at the "School of Oriental and Afican Studies" (SOAS) of London University) on October 2, 1995 at the "First International Conference on Dowry and
Bride-Burning in India" held at Harvard University. She pleaded that there must be a telephone hot-line in the towns/cities of India so that a bride, who was afraid that she might be killed, could ask for help.
The question came up: who would take the call ? Who will help her ?? There was a dowry cell in police department, but they were understaffed. Moreover, police did not have any infrastucture to provide safe
accommodation, free food and clothing, medical and psychological support, etc. for the brides. Most of the existing shelters run by the government had such a bad reputation that a bride would prefer to die at the
hands of her in-laws than to go to such a shelter. So the question came up about building respectable, safe and secure shelter-homes, which started the discussion. ]
1. MAJOR ECONOMIC PROGRAM: LONG TERM PLAN:
1(a) Enforce mandatory education of females for financial independence and autonomy;
1(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
1(c) Originate an "Old Age Fund" in India to finance old people thereby eliminating their dependency upon their sons.
2. NATIONAL SUPPORT GROUPS: LONG TERM PLANS:
2(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 a
dowry, & (ii) to support their struggle against parental pressure for demand/acceptance/giving of dowry;
2(b). Organize and operate "Parents Against Dowry" mutual support groups of parents (i)
who oppose the dowry system, & (ii) whose daughters have been victims of dowry.
3. RESEARCH AND MASS COMMUNICATION: LONG TERM PLAN:
3(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 the evil of dowry and bride-burning;
3(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:
5(a). Reformative Law: Reform Indian legal system to enforce a daughter's inheritance rights to the estates of her parents, forefathers
and other ancestors;
5(b). Preventive Law: Enhance Indian legal system to declare a marriage null and void as soon as dowry is demanded, and compensate the divorced bride with the half of the estate of her
6. IMMEDIATE LIFE-SAVING MECHANISM:
6(a). Construct dignified, high-rise, secured and protected buildings in a number of towns/cities in India and operate "Job
Center for Dowry Victims" equipped with telephone hot-lines, attended by speciaists trained to handle distress calls, where a dowry victim will receive effective security, respectable accommodation, food and
clothing, legal protection, medical care, psychological and spiritual care, sports & recreational facilities, study material and a job-oriented training till she is qualified to find a job and qualified to lead
a financially independent life;
6(b). Construct dignified, high-rise, secured and protected buildings for financially independent, working women.