Giving voice to silence

Dowry deaths

Giving voice to silence

 Mallika Sarabhai

As a society that prides itself on strong spiritual and family values, we should be very concerned that women and girl children are treated so brutally and often killed for money by their own family members,” said organisers of Daughters of Fire, an ongoing three-day event highlighting issues relating to violence on women in the country. The auditorium at Christ university was packed to capacity with women from all walks of lives ranging from social activist organisations, scholars, artists, students and survivors of domestic and dowry related violence and abuse from all parts of the country, who had gathered there to listen and be heard.

Unofficial estimates say 25,000 women in India die each year, with many more maimed and scarred as a result of attempts on their lives. The other side of this horrific coin is the phenomenon of ‘Disappearing daughters’ related to the prevailing practice of sex-selective abortions with almost two million female foetuses being aborted each year.

The programme covered discussions and testimonies with well-known personalities like danseuse Mallika Sarabhai giving a special performance and Lida Jacob, retired secretary, Social Welfare Department, Kerala reviewing various government policies in the context of the changing nature of the State. Arti Mundkur from the Alternative Law Forum spoke on the subject of legal provisions of the State which has not been able to convict criminals, thus encouraging such crimes against women.

“With our erstwhile members in Parliament up in arms against a reality television show, it would be more productive if they exhibited the same level of outrage against dowry related deaths which are estimated to have increased phenomenally over the decades. As young, educated women, who have opportunities available to us we need to be more concerned and aware of women who desperately need to be empowered in order to live as equal citizens in a civil society,” said Meghana, a student delegate who participated in the event.

“Through these women who share their testimonies of pain and resistance and through the active participation of women and men from different walks of life, the India Court of Women on Dowry and other Related Forms of Violence against Women will attempt to recover this lost language of justice,” said Donna Fernandes from Vimochana.

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