The spate of dowry related deaths of young women in the past few months has been unravelling about the state of gender equality in Kerala. Kerala has always been considered a progressive state with high female literacy and better gender ratio when compared to the rest of the country.
The facade of progressiveness stands pathetically exposed. Scores of women suffering in hushed horror are hidden by the large mansions draped with lush greenery. The gold bedecked wedding pictures along with dreamy wedding videos are a cosmetic attempt to hide the ugly dowry transaction taking place in the name of marriage. All talks of gender sensitivity becomes wasted when a woman is being silenced in her home, be it by the parents or the marital family.
The situation is not just confined to Kerala. According to the 2020 National Crime Records Bureau report, every hour, one woman becomes a victim of dowry death in India. Every four minutes, a woman is subjected to cruelty by her husband or in-laws.
For the dowry deaths to be eliminated, the women’s parents have to take a proactive stride towards bringing up confident, secure women who will not bow down to the pressures of dowry demands or abuse at any stage in life.
Focus on Education and Self- Reliance
Women should be bought up with the sole idea of education and standing on their own feet. Even in a highly educated society like Kerala, women are given higher education with marriage prospects in mind rather than professional growth and independence. Economic independence is the basic elixir that prepares woman to confidently face the challenges of life. There is no denying that ordinary professional working women struggle juggling with work pressures and house chores. In some instances, the working women have no say or control over the money they earn. So, the need is to raise empowered women who are not cowered down by any form of bullying or abuse.
Independent Choice on Marriage
Most of the women give in to the idea of marriage bowing to the pressures of family and society. An independent, secure woman is relentlessly questioned and pitied over her unmarried status. It is important for the family to support the women in their life to make an independent choice be it while choosing a life partner or on when they want to marry. If the woman decides to remain unmarried, the choice needs to be respected and supported. A woman should have the sole liberty to get married according to her preference.
Refuse to Give Dowry
In most parts of the country, marriage talk is accompanied with dowry talks. There is a blatant apathy towards dowry system which is accepted as part of tradition or is watered down as gifts for the daughter. In some instances of love marriage or arranged marriage, the dowry demands are made once the marriage has been fixed, leaving the bride’s family in a spot. The bride’s families should show foresight and break away from the relationship without bothering about the perceptions of society. Breaking up such toxic engagement should be encouraged as opposed to giving in to flimsy pressures and knowingly sending the daughter into a greedy toxic family.
Pressure to Adjust
Even as the woman’s marriage is fixed, she is relentlessly coached on what she needs to do to make the marriage work. The big part of making the marriage work is for the woman to adjust with the new household she walks into. In this modern day of woke generation, the burden of adjustment continues to be on the woman. There is no denying that for a marriage to work there has to be commitment and compromise. But for the relationship to thrive, the partnership of give and take along with understanding should come from both sides. No woman should be told to adjust with disrespect in any form, let alone emotional abuse or violence.
The recent dowry deaths in Kerala sheds light on the psychological upheaval women feel about being single. Most of the women stay in unhappy marriages due to the stigma associated with divorce, perpetuated by the slights and perceptions of society. For whatever reasons, two individuals might find it difficult to make a relationship work. Dragging the relationship can be suffocating and toxic for each other. It is important for the society to accept that divorce is an empowering worthy option for women and accord them respect for making a progressive healthy choice. The pressure to make the marriage work at all costs can be fatal for the daughters.
Every woman should wear the tag of happily single with pride, be it unmarried by choice or normally divorced. The norm of the society should be for a woman to thrive immaterial of her marital status. Let’s spur women to embrace resilient positive choices.