It is unfortunate that the viciousness of the dowry custom comes
to be noticed only when a woman is murdered for it. We feel that
all those who give and take dowry or participate in this ritual,
are also responsible for making such murders possible. Are they
not helping perpetuate a vicious custom which reduces women to articles
of sale and barter ? Why cannot a protest or public meeting begin
or end with the organizers making a commitment that they will not
be a party to dowry giving or taking in any form, that they will
boycott all dowry marriages ?
We therefore appeal to all women’s groups and organizations
to ensure that the movement begin with our own lives, that all of
us be prepared to pay the price of our convictions. At least the
women actively involved in taking up any issue should seriously
discuss how it touches their lives and make such commitments with
regard to personally and collectively battling against it.
Some of us have been practising this form of boycott for a while.
But now we publicly affirm that
1. We will not attend or in any way participate in a marriage where
dowry is either given or taken in however veiled a form (as gifts,
trousseau, money deposited in a bank in the girl’s name at
the time of marriage), even if the marriage be that of a close relative
or a dear friend. We will openly make known our reasons for boycotting
such marriages, rather than just quietly staying away from the ceremony.
We will also boycott all rituals wherein dowry continues to be given
after marriage such as customary gifts to the son-in-law’s
relatives at festivals and childbirth.
2. That we will henceforth not confine protest actions to dowry
murders but will also protest when dowry is given, at extravagant
3. That we will not attend marriages in which the woman has no
active choice – in deciding whether she wants to get married
at all or in choosing the person to whom she is to be married.
By protesting only when murders take place, we are keeping our
own homes untouched, because dowry murders, for all their frequency,
are still rare as compared to the high frequency of dowry giving
and taking. Almost all of us participate in or connive at the giving
and taking of dowry – not just in the form of cash, jewellery,
household goods, gifts to husband’s relatives, trousseau but
also innumerable gifts that flow from the woman’s family to
the husband’s on every conceivable occasion – the various
bribes that the woman’s family is forced to continue offering
so that she may not be taunted and maltreated.
Only when dowry itself is attacked in all its forms and manifestations,
does the battle ground shift to our own homes and personal lives.
It is there that the real struggle begins.
Asha, Anju, Geeta Whig, Anna, Kumkum, Ancy, Ruth, Madhu Kishwar.
We appeal to all of you to make such commitments as part of our
collective women’s struggle. We would like to publish regularly
in Manushi the names of those women who wish to make such commitments.
Write to us if you subscribe to the points we have outlined and
also if you would like to add anything to them.