Dowry victims pour their heart out before 'court'

Social Scientist Shiv Vishwanathan, danseuse Mallika Sarabhai and environmental activist Vandana Shiva at a programme - Daughters of Fire in Bangal

 Harassed by their husbands and in-laws for dowry, 25 women poured out their stories of agony and survival at a novel “court” here on Tuesday.

Moved by their plight, Vimochana, the Asian Women’s Rights Council (AWRC) and 40 other women’s organisations demanded a stringent law to end the social menace.

These organisations had assembled the unique India Court of Women on Dowry, called “Daughters of Fire.” It was summoned to hear cases of dowry related violence from across the country, and attempted to bring a solution to the scourge of dowry in Indian society. Tuesday’s court was preceded by a series of discussions by experts.

The purpose of the court session, according to Shakun, a senior member of Vimochana, was to bring to the fore the extent of violence endured by the victims in the name of dowry. Testifying before the court, a  victim said she suffered physical and mental torture at the hands of her husband of five long years. Another victim recalled the frequent torture she underwent during her married life.

Although the court had no legal authority, the people behind it were convinced that tough laws could bring an end to the menace. The  Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, has not helped arrest the growing number of dowry cases.

The National Crime Records Bureau records say about 6,787 dowry death cases were registered in India in 2005, a 46 percent rise from the 1995 level (4,648).

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