Thursday, February 08, 2007

Bride Burning- in the name of dowry

Every hour and forty minutes an Indian woman is lit on fire. Every day a woman lives in fear of the day it will be her. This post is based on a paper I wrote. I reference India because most literature focuses on India, not because its the only place it occurs. Dowry violence hurts me for surely I've had a relative or ancestor who felt the pain of dowry abuse. As I'm a reflection of my ancestors who provided me with the building blocks I'm made of I can't help but grieve for the pain they endured. Its my obligation to talk about it and give a voice to those whose voices along with their helpless bodies are all too often swept under the rug.

Dowry
(jahez): the practice of the bride's family providing the groom's family money or goods in exchange for their daughter's marriage. Dowry consists of both money and valuable goods such a jewelry, refrigerators, TVs, cars and even homes. The typical dowry is seven times the yearly salary of the breadwinner. It originated as voluntary gift giving but now is considered obligatory if a family wants their daughter to marry.

Dowry's indirect effects: The pressure of dowry makes a daughter's birth a disappointing event. Parents afraid of the dowries try preventing her from existing. In the 80's one could see billboards of Sonogram clinics preying on dowry fears with ads like "better 500 rupees now than 500,000 later" Between 1981- 1991 over 1 million female fetuses were aborted. In Punjab there are 793 girls per 1000 boys.

Dowry's direct effect:
The quest for cash coupled with the devaluation of women creates the ideal backdrop for dowry murders: The in-laws, unhappy with the dowry demand more. When the parents don't pay up the anger is taken out on the bride. Eventually they think it'll be better to be rid of her so their son can remarry for more dowry and try driving her to suicide. Her parents don't help fearing damaging the family honor so seeing no other choice she sometimes takes her own life

Bride Burning is the most popular murder method. The woman is restrained in the kitchen and doused by cooking kerosene and lit by a match. Burning is popular because Kerosene is cheap and readily available. The saris most Indian women wear are combustible so the murder is hard to trace and in the privacy of the home. The survival rate of such deaths is also low ensuring the woman will never prosecute them. Even if she survives she typically succumbs to infection in the hospital. Even escape doesn't ensure safety. Divorce is still taboo in much of the subcontinent, seen as a shame upon the family honor. Three years ago an 18 y/o bride fled from the clutches of her brother in law as her mother in law poured kerosene and husband lit the match to her parents who asked the court to force her to return to her in-laws. The Court made her return making them promise not to harm her.


The law and the flaw: There are laws on the books condemning dowry murder but they don't work because those who are to uphold the law often turn a blind eye. The police and courts are a product of a society that generally believes in the inferior status of women. Others believe dowry murder to be private family matters. Of the thousands of reported dowry deaths less than 10% are investigated. Worse, the police often end up actively hurting the investigation by destroying evidence in exchange for bribes and reporting murders as suicides or accidents. Further, prosecutors rarely file charges even after complete investigations are conducted. Between 1961 and 1975 Indian prosecutors filed only one dowry death case. Further, dowry laws don't work because of the deep rooted history of gender inequality in a patriarchal society. As consumerism rises, the dowry demands are rising as well and the people who benefit don't want to get rid of a system that works for them. No matter what new laws come out, until the mentality changes, nothing changes. Women must be considered and treated as equals to men and worthy of the same respect.

Fixing the flaw: (1) There must be a greater
priority on educating women and helping them become economically independent (2) NGO's should be able to file claims on behalf of victims when parents are unwilling (3) There must be well known shelters to turn to when fleeing such a situation (4) There must be education on the atrocity at all levels of government. Such education must be addressed in schools so children can be taught a better mentality at a younger age. (5) The media must increase awareness and publicize tragedies to help change the public perception on dowry violence (6) Organizations like Amnesty must publicise this so citizens from around the world can be made aware of the situation's gravity.

What can you do: Read about it. Care about it. Tell someone about it. The ripple effect of passing on knowledge and empathy cannot be understated.

45 comments:

Baraka said...

Salaam Aisha,

Great article on an on-going problem.

I would add that we need to cofnront our own prejudice because it is the educated and professional classes who are the worst abusers of sex-selective abortions, dowry demands and murder-through-burning.

That means me, you, Uncleji and Auntyji need to sit down and acknowledge our own support of these practices (sadness at learning one is to have a girl upon the sonogram, sadness at her birth, telling her she is less than her brother though her chastity is more important than his, that she must limit her education or she won't be able to "get a man," that a lavish wedding and dowry are necessary and honor-saving, that she has to bow down to her in-laws, that she has to pray for a son, etc. etc. etc)

We're part of the problem. I had a lavish wedding and my sisters had dowries.

As the educated and wealthy class we have to put a stop to our own prejudice first.

Thanks for writing this.

Warmly,
Baraka

Aisha said...

Baraka, thank you SO much for such a thoughtful provocative response. It's an interesting perspective you brought up that WE keep the practice going. I was shocked in my research to leran that the educated engaged in such practices as well. I found it was even more prevalent in them. I have head even AMERICAN BORN desis say "poor X she has three daughters can you imagine the weddings" perhaps they dont realize what they are perpetuating.

I read of a story of two doctor sisters who injected themselves with poison and died b/c they couldn't take the stress of dowry demands by their inlaws. It's very sad.

As far as dowry in my family, my parents are fundamentally opposed to it and did not engage in the practice themselves. I did not give Kashif or his family dowry nor did they request it. BUT I want to know what I am doing to be part of the problem because I'm not sure what I am doing. Our wedding was nice but certainly not lavish to the point of ostentatious trying to outdo the wedding before it... but do you think there are other things we do to encourage such behaviors?

Aisha said...

Also Baraka (if you're reading and know, please chime in) how prevalent is Dowry violence in Pakistan? I could not find adequat stats? Just curios on what you've heard or seen.

Tee said...

Aisha - As always a well written, thought out, and researched article. I like that instead of simply painting a grim picture and leaving the audience depressed that you also provided solutions.

I found the information on the billboard ads really interesting. I think that is a great illustration of how widely accepted this way of thinking is in the culture.

The male to female ratio is also quite shocking. Not to speak of trivial things on a such a serious topic, but it makes me wonder if women living in Pubjab, even those who conventionally might not be considered a "great catch" (to be superficial for a moment) have many suitors just for sheer numbers.

I can't imagine the fear these women live in. In many of these cultures in-laws are given so much power over the daughter-in-law, and then to make it possible for them to murder her and not pay the consequences on top of that, it breaks my heart and makes me angry all at the same time.

You know I put up with a manipulative mother-in-law but I live in the United States and as such I can pretty much tell her to shove off and not fear such severe repucussions. Yes, perhaps an argument with my husband - but not that someone will light me on fire. I just can not imagine.

Women blessed to live in free socities like ours have a responsibility to give voice to the women in this world who do not have one.

Continue to use your writing gift to serve on issues God has moved you to write on.

Suroor said...

Salaam Aisha,

Very well done! Excellent post. Bravo!

I'll be honest about something. My father is very rich and was born and raised in London so you can imagine his influence but I got married in a mosque, I was given absolutely NO dowry, except for a gold set that was exchanged for a large gold crown that was my 3rd birthday present, and the reception was held in a hotel and guests were served tea and coffee. My father had always said that our dowry was our education and if we wanted something we should earn and spend our own money.

Dowry is not a Muslim concept but exists in Pakistan also because of Hindu influence from pre-partition times. The practice MUST end!

Well done!

Aisha said...

Tee thanks for your input! As for the male-female ratio thing. That could take up another post! There are way more guys than girls. You'd think that'd lead to the girls being valued a lot. There are some villages where that happens and girls are now the ones who are saying "make it worth my while" since there are so few of them. Sadly in other villages the lack of girls leads to one girl being maried into a family and being shared by all the brothers. And of kidnappings of girls to other villages where they are forced into marriages. Its sad.. It's scary that a MIL or anyoen can have that much control over a bride like that. They are women too, how can they do this to theiro own? I dont understand it but it happens every day there. I mean, one of the ways that mothers have rocked their daughters to sleep is by saying "mur ja kuryee" which means die little girl. Makes you feel thankful to be where you are...

Suroor wow that is really nice that your father made ap oint to engage in that sort of frivolty. Did he face pressure to engage in such types of ostentatious wedding ceremonies etc? or did people understand? Also I have been researching and I know that dowry predates Islam and came after Hinduism but I'm not sure if the scriputres refer to it. I read there is talk about dowry in the scriptures but I'm not sure what it says etc. You know how verses can get twisted out of their original meaning. So I dont know what the Hindu faith has to say about dowry as far as their religion goes..

yasmine said...

In the 80's one could see billboards of Sonogram clinics preying on dowry fears with ads like "better 500 rupees now than 500,000 later"

mygod, how horrifying.
i don't have any thoughtful comments to make, aisha, but thank you so much for writing this and reminding me of an issue that i all too easily forget about, simply because i never feel it affects me.

thank you for this post, and for everyone else for such thought-provoking and empowering comments, especially tee, who said:

Women blessed to live in free socities like ours have a responsibility to give voice to the women in this world who do not have one.

momyblogR said...

OMGod!! What a mind boggling post. Really I'm beside myself with the information you've provide.

Honetly, I don't know what to say. I think I'm on emotional over load this week but to think this is happening to woman in the world is........I have no words.

:(:(

mystic-soul said...

Aisha !!

Please post this to some Pakistani newspapers and site like Dawn magazine...

It reminds me a very emotional song from Madam Noorjahan

Jahez ki laanat aaj to hai kiya kul bhi hogi?

Suroor said...

There was pressure from some relatives who are more Pakistani than us. After years on inter-cultural marriages, we are not very cultural and so there is a lot we get away with not doing. But the few relatives we have in Pakistan called Abi loads of names for not indulging me in luxury but it was not what I wanted at all. I loved my simpel wedding.

Anonymous said...

When my brother got married, his wife is from Pakistan, there was no dowry, and my parents didn't expect it either.

When I got married, although both my hubby and I are both far from cultural, my mom insisted to give us several things. I told her I didn't need to take anything with me. But she said she didn't want to give the boys family any opportunity to complain about it if they did expect it.

Thankfully my hubby's family didn't expect anything... I mean, he already lived out of state from them, and had his own place... they didn't care what I was going to bring "into" the family.

I believe my mom's attitude came from the "indian" thinking in her. I do know that this dowry giving is still common amongst many cousins, and many can't afford to get married for these same reasons. They often depend on my parents or other relatives to help out in weddings of their daughters.

This practice should definately end here at least. Its harder in India because of all the hindu influence. They only dowry in Islam is suppose to be the BRIDEWEALTH, ie, the mehr, what the groom is suppose to pay the bride. Unfortunately, in India the mehr is more often only paid if the couple gets divorced.... thus also contributing to the 'elimination' of the brides, rather than paying up the mehr if the groom or his family is unhappy.

Maliha said...

Salamaat,
In arab sub-cultures the script is flipped, really high demands are placed on the groom; to get a house, furniture, hefty dowry etc. The problem is it still discourages youth from getting married and all these other problems happen on the side.

I didn't know bride burnings were so pervasive! That's crazy.

We knew a case in Mombasa where an Indian woman burned herself because she had a fight with her husband. At least thats what she claimed. She didn't die for many years and had to live with the aftermath which is horrendous to say the least.

Thanks for Sharing Aisha.

Baji said...

Horrifying!
And to think some innocent comments and thoughts on dowry, weddings, females, etc. only perpetuate the problem. We need all to be more aware.

Please spread this artile wide and far.

JamilaLighthouse said...

This is horrific, I knew that it happened but I wasn't aware that it is occurring at such a terrible rate. I'm curious though, does this mean that even amongst Muslims, the man never pays a dowry, and it's seen as the responsibilty of the woman. The dowry in Islam is supposed to be FOR the woman, so that she has something to rely on if she needs it. This flipping of things is terrible.

All this class stuff is appalling also...it's a problem in all cultures, but it has no place in Islam where the only marker is piety.

Anisa said...

this is disgusting. i feel helpless, but have faith that God will provide justice in the end.

i am in shock...had no idea about this insanity.

my "dowry" was my engagement and wedding ring. these people need to get over themselves and treat a dowry as a symbol...not something worth killing for.

Aisha said...

Yasmine thanks for your input. I'm glad that it meant something to you. It's such a horrifying situation and its an issue none of us seem to talk about. I'm not sure if that is b/c the issue is more prevalent w/ Hindus or b/c we pretend it doesnt happen. If anyone has any insight on the matter I'd appreciate the input!!

Momyblogr, I know.. it horrifying.. but knowing is important I think. I feel we owe it to them to at least have their plight be heard. Of course more needs to be done and must be done but at the msot basic level to give their lives meaning we must care. Thanks for caring.

Mystic thanks, the quote I am not familiar with, I'm overdue to rewatch that movie though!

Suroor, they're ridiculous to hae calld him names. Youre lucky your dad was above all that! :)

Anon! Thanks for the insight on the mehar being provided only upon divorce. I had no idea!! I think its okay for parent to give a gift to the girl out of love but for fear of what the in-laws will think or b/c of custom is wrong. Like Baraka said, we then become part of the problem. Even though its "no big deal" hee in the US to give a few grand or do this or that, we are condoning a system.

Maliha that is fascinating I did not know that. To some degree that happens in the US. Tehre are stories of girls demanding 100,000$ mehar etc. I think its so ridiculous particularly in the US where we have systems in place to take care of women and men upon divorce (child support, alimony, distribution of property). What is the consequence to these men when the mehar isn't paid???

Baji, thanks, yes innocent comments it eh part we can control.. at the very least..

Jamila, welcomem to the blog and thanks for the comment :). Do you mean how does the dowry thing work with men? In India men don't give anything to the woman and the woman is the one who gives to the man's family. Now, Muslims have the mehar ofcourse so that is probably provided additionally in failies that practice the jahez system... Maybe someone reading could provide some insight...

Anisa, I'm so glad that you commented and let me know you had never read about this before. It makes me feel good that someone found out about this. For some reason the community is just very quiet about it. I know its not affecting world politics but it is heartbreaking that our sisters are dying and living brutal existences for the sake of dowry. Its absolutely depressing. And you know you are right about justice in the end. When I read about the stories for my paper I couldn't help my rage. It made me further convinced that there must be a hereafter for people like this who light helpless young girls on fire... so they can somehow somewhere answer for what they did

ABCDlaw said...

What a sad and informative post! It really makes me mad when I hear about such things. What I can't understand though is how the mother-in-law can treat another woman like that. I'm assuming that at one time that mother-in-law too was a young woman whose father had to pay an arm and a leg for her dowry. Why are these women so set on perpetrating this horrible custom? I know desi society is male dominated and many women are abused by their husbands, but why arent all these women uniting to end the abuse? What is it in these mother-in-laws that makes them act so monstrous? I wish there was something I could do to help stop this atrocity.

My dowry will probably be, depending on when I marry, 10 grand plus in law school loans *chuckles*.

momyblogR said...

Ugh! I DO care and I care about so many things. I agree caring is the beginning but what comes after that?

How do we make a difference, were do we start.....on this and so many other things. Caring is good but unless it's put into action what go is it. What do these people benefit by me saying, "I care!" but then don't know what to do to help or make a difference. It could make someone craxy!

On days I just want to say, "I QUIT!" Then I think, "How could I, if they aren't?"

Aisha said...

ABCD that is the million dollar question! I wish I knew how it happened. All I can say is that the subjugation of women is so prevalent that they themselves believe they are worthy of the treatment. Its devestating.

Mommyblogr, *SIGH* Yes what the heck does caring do. It doesnt change anything. I've struggled with this issue and I've realized you have to pick a cause that you are interested in AND are practically able to help affect change and work on it in the capacity that you can. You cannot save everyone from every issue. Its not possible. But it is possible to care. Though that may not be the issue I end up devoting time to help with, my caring, and sharing about it may inspire someone else to take charge on that issue. I feel the same way... how can I quit whenthey aren't. I feel that the pain I feel on their behalf gives their suffering some meaning. Makes sure their pain was at least acknowledged by another. That their lives were not competely in vain...

Jaycie said...

This is so sad. My daughter is now 2 and never did I ever feel sad to have her of course I'm not from that culture. I actually WANTED a girl. If you can believe that. My husband on the other hand was disappointed. Of course he loves her more than anything but certainly it is ingrained in Pakistanis that boys are better. Just yesterday infact my husbands aunt dropped off my daughter and came into my house to take something out of my mil's room. I thought some sort of relgious thing or something.. she does that from time to time. But when she comes out she tells me 'oh mummy wanted me to get this so you don't have another girl.' I just looked at her stunned not quite sure how to react. I feel bad for these women that think their lives are less because they are women.. it's sad.. really sad.

Maliha said...

Salamaat,
Aisha: I don't think any of them have deferred payment. It's like they have to have it up front or no marriage at all...which is why so many can't do it to begin with.

I am not sure what happens if they get married on a deferred payment plan (hahaha, this sounds aweful!) I am sure nothing as drastic as burnings...they are men after all.

sigh.

Maleeha said...

Aisha...very informative post. Honestly, I am not personally touched by this problem, alhumdullilah. Both my mother and mother-in-law are very reasonable women. My mom gave me as much jewelry and clothes as she wanted to, and my mother-in-law didnt ask me about what I got or how much I got. (One thing I abhor is the tradition of showing bridal gifts from the parents to the wedding guests - it makes me want to throw up. Thank God that wasnt this case w/ me!) Whatever my parents gave me, they gave me as a gift to a daughter, not out of obligation. And my parents always said - the best gift we're giving you is this law school education, use it wisely. How true those words are!

But just b/c I am not personally affected by it, I know women who are, and their lives are made hell. It really is a symptom of a wider mysoginistic attitude towards women. Sometimes I wonder why mother-in-laws, who likely went through the same thing when they got married, dont just break the cycle and make lives easier for their daughter-in-laws?

Aisha said...

Jaycie I can certainly believe that someone would want a girl. I pray that I have a daughter as well. They are a blessing and are no less than sons. Just out curiosity what did she take out of your house to ensure a future son?? So sad, but thanks for sharing.

Maliha... that is depressing too. I dont know how ppl justify this with their spirituality.

Maleeha, amen to that. and you are very fortunate that you never had such issues. It's all too prevalent so consider yourself fortunate!

Suroor said...

Aisha, I just publicised this post on my blog. Sorry, I was late but I wanted an appropriate post with which to announce this. I wnated to announce it as soon as I read it because it is really very good.

Mia said...

This is a fantastic post Alisha! My apologies for not reading it sooner, life has been really mega hectic as of late for this recent graduate.

You know you’d think that something as barbaric as this would have been rooted so deep in time that it shared space with the dinosaurs but it isn’t and that’s what blew my mind about bride burning. Compared to other practices it is still in it’s infancy it didn’t start until the latter part of the 20th century.

Honestly Alisha I don’t think this practice will ever be stopped despite the condemnation of the international communities, and the local communities. This practice is ultimately rooted in greed and that’s what really irks me. Killing a woman over a dowry it shames me to think that people are capable of such cruelty over what money, and materialism. But here’s the real nipple twister, people that I’ve known for years who I’ve grown up with and talk about marriage for the sake of love not money etc. when it has come time for them to marry the first thing I hear out of their mouths is talk of a dowry. People that don’t even need it but still they expect a dowry! Can you believe that? All we can really as humans is speak for those who can’t freely speak for themselves and join every possible international organization that has programs supporting the end of violence towards women for example Amnesty International.

Sumanth said...

Every year not even 10 bride burnings happen where as wives drive 22000 husband to death and go scot free in India.

The suicide rate of married men and women in India is 63:37.

If a woman dies, the husband and in-law are arrested and put behind bars.

If the husband commits suicide, the wife and her parents get his insurance money.

The Nuisance Causing women (NCW) says, "adulterous men are criminals, but adulterous women are victims."

Angie Ellaboudy said...

It amazes me at times just inhumane humans can be.. barak Allahu fiky for posting this!

found your blog on: http://muslamics.blogspot.com/2007/03/muslims-and-marriage-around-blogosphere.html

Shobhan Bantwal said...

Aisha,
Nice blog -- well thought out and written.

To make the North American world aware of this never-ending scourge of dowry in third-world countries, I have written a novel called THE DOWRY BRIDE, and it is scheduled for publication in Sept. 2007 by Kensington Books. It is the story of one young woman trapped in the arranged marriage and dowry systems of India, and her emotional, action-packed escape to freedom and ultimately happiness.

I felt that fiction is usually read more extensively than dry non-fiction and I'm hoping my novel will open the eyes of Westerners to the primitive and heinous practice of dowry killing.

I hope you can read THE DOWRY BRIDE and review it, pass it along to friends and fellow bloggers.


Regards,
Shobhan Bantwal
www.shobhanbantwal.com
The Dowry Bride-Sept. 2007

Diana said...

Aisha, thank you for the blog. I am Hmong, and in my culture, it is the groom and the groom's family who have to pay the dowry to the bride's family. It is the belief that if a man wants to marry her, he should be able to provide for her. It has been practiced for thousands of years.

Bride price is still practiced in the U.S. and it can be expensive, depending if she is a good person, came from a good family, and how well educated she is. If she's a doctor or graduated from a prestigious university , the bride's family may ask for $10,000 or more.

The view towards bride dowries is usually looked down upon in my generation. However, we'll comply, since it is imposed from our parents. For example, at my sister's wedding, my father did not want a dowry from my brother-in-law, but because his family is traditional, they insisted on giving the dowry because it is so deeply rooted in our culture.

Many of us are against it, for it can be construed as selling daughters off to potentially abusive husbands because he paid "good" money for her. Once the woman marries, she becomes a part of her husbands. Or, it could halt the wedding because the two families can't decide on a price.

Such practices like this should be banned. A child's worth is more than money... the only thing that can buy them is unconditional love.

Anonymous said...

I will share with others about this awful practice.

Elizabeth said...

Aisha,

Can you tell me more about that sad Indian lullaby? I am interested in writing about this problem and am gathering some info about it.

Thanks

Arnab said...

Aisha ,

Stop the lies that you are apreading immediately. Dowry today has become a business for Indian feminists who create horrific stories of bride birning and demand for money from US based agencies . Do you even know the statistics ? Do you know that every year 56000 Indian husband are driven to suicide by their husbands ? The number of wives who commit suicide are 26000( half that number ) . These numbers are from the National Crime Records bureau . Do you know that over 98% of cases filed in Indian courts under the anti dowry law are false ? Do you know that over 126000 women and children are arrested by the Indian police when the anti dowry law is misused by indian women . Do you know the current status of Indian men vis a vis Indian women . Please educate yourself and STOP the false feminist DOWRY Business to fleece people . Please vist SaveIndianfamily.org if you want to edcate yourself on what is the real status of Indian women vis a vis Indian men .

Arnab said...

Western Jornalists .
If you are a Femiist then my words will have no effect on you because you are probably know what a big li bride burning really is. People who do not , please visit the below link to learn more . All data and statistics presented in all reports are from Newspapers and Government sites .

http://aimwa.in/dowry-death-and-bride-burning-a-look-beyond-the-smoke-screen

Anonymous said...

Aisha,

Thank you for a very good post. My grandparents, gave a "dowry" to my mother when she got married. Not because it's the "Rule" or "Tradition", but they gave it to her saying that it will help my parents start a new life as a newlyweds. Dowry is unheard of in my country, but parents gave it as a gift to the newlyweds, not to the in-laws who will use it for themselves, or to use it as another dowry to their unmarried daughters. The cycle goes on and on. In one blog that I also read a few days ago, one man says his mother wanted a dowry, not for herself but for her children, and that dowry is the payment for sending her son and spending $100,000.00 for his education. So I asked him, why does your bride- to-be has to pay for what your mother's have paid for your education? It is a parents obligation to give their children a good education, and not to pass on the bill to the future daughter-in-law. I also added to my comment on that blog, that since the bride is giving a dowry, it is like she is buying or paying for her husband, likewise, she had all the right to do whatever she wanted to do to him? Dowry system was prevalent in the Medieval Age because fathers wanted to pass the responsibility to the husband, but that was the Dark Ages, when women cannot fend for themselves and cannot get a decent job. Women of today can be financially independent and take care of themselves, and I guess, in a male-dominant society, that is highly un-acceptable.

I also read about this bride burning issue in some other blogs and online news, sad to say, if a woman say something to benefit her fellow women, she is labeled as a "feminist", but how about men who cannot accept that women can be their equal?

Anonymous said...

Hello i am a 10th grader researching for a project and i saw your article and it changed my entire veiw point of disgustiong things that happen in India and that might happen in Pakistan, too! It is really good, mashallah that you researched this and posted it where the entire world can see and react on. Thank you for your article.

Amanda Harper said...

A few days ago in New Zealand a women was found on the side of the road, burnt to death. Police say she was alive at the time she was set on fire. As a country we were shocked to think who could do such a thing to someone.
Although the investigation is still underway, bride burning has been cited as a possible motive. Especially because her husband has fled the country. Bastard.
I had never heard of this and I am deeply saddend and angry to learn of but I hope that maybe the blessing could arise from these horrible circumstances is that NZers become more aware and informed of this disgusting and inhumane, not to mention F***en cruel practise.
As a woman I feel for all the women who suffer at the hands of men who still believe women are inferior. If it weren't for us giving birth how would they even be here.

Anonymous said...

this is sad indeed as still way too many men think we as woman are nothing and they are far more superior to us in New Zealand we are quite new to hearing that this ritual is even here, unfortunately i knew the person that found the young girl and will never be the same again
disgusted that these practices still exist in 2011

Anonymous said...

Aisha,
Thank you for this wonderful post. And timely with the man who killed his daughter here in the states as a purported "honor" killing, by running her over with a car. I apologize for the length in advance:)

I am a Native American, Welsh, European mix without much specific cultural background outside of living around the world as a child of a military father and then traveling as a military female member myself....before it was so vogue to be female and in the American military. In my 40s and never married (the right time never seemed to match with an acceptable partner) and though raised by very "American" parents, including a "cowboy father," and working mother...I see things such as arranged marriages as sometimes beneficial. Yeah, basically "white," highly independent, American female, with such views of "outdated" traditions.

While in other cultures I sometimes feel more at home because I can observe unobtrusively, and I thought you might be interested in some of those observations as well as things I've learned over my 40+ years of reading about these sorts of things and listening to personal stories. You may have heard of many of these things yourself.

Bride burning with kerosene in the family kitchen is still a huge problem in some Afghanistan provinces, but not over dowry....it seems to me that the common thread is the wielding of control by the family that a very young girl is married into and their expectations of her subservience to their demands, whatever form they may take.

In China and some of the Central Asian "stans" (can’t remember the exact one and don't want to name the wrong one) bride kidnapping is a large and growing problem. Exacerbated by the selection for male children by aborting female fetuses.

In a few of the wealthy Middle Eastern countries it was not at all uncommon for a father to kill a daughter, if she had been accused or just suspected of a moral crime such as showing her face to a foreign male. Female births did not need to be registered. Cindy

Anonymous said...

cont.
In Kosovo, they still have arranged marriages, some are good matches, some not so good, mostly among the majority Albanian Muslims (VERY sweet people on the whole BTW) and persists more in the smaller towns and rural areas. But in these the bride usually is not forced The mother of the groom chooses for him. If he is already in love with another, but an obedient son, he marries his mother's choice, although he may keep seing the other girl, or have mistresses. Traditionally, if the woman did not produce a child within the first two years, the husband could send her back. If she did not produce a male child within five years, he could send her back. No one else though would usually want her then. The girl, had to get all new things down to clothes, hair brushes etc. to take with her to the grooms family house where she and the new husband would live. She could not keep ANYTHING from her old life. She would not leave the new family compound ever without her husband and the first wife always acted as the servant for the grooms family, not even allowed to sit with them at dinner, rather waiting until they were finished, to eat while cleaning up after them. Any woman who worked outside of the home was a "whore"...this helped me understand why there were so many claims that all the female Kosovarian police were "whores." And male bosses did often take advantage of female workers, sexually. However, there are more and more "progressive" husbands who let the wives travel with a female relative from their own side of the family to other cities to visit family there and let them work outside the home. Girls and boys, begin job skill type schooling at what would be about age 12. Older men, though often very traditonal, were also kind of cute sometimes in that they were trying to move forward with females working around them and making more money than they could (quicker language skills usually and easier to train to do the job as intended rather than as the men felt like it should be done, even if they had never done it before:) Kind of how the male military firing range personnel often said female soldiers were easier to train how to shoot different weapons properly, the females mostly didn't assume they already knew it all:) But those old traditional men, had wives that rarely lef the family compound. The husband did all the grocery and other shopping and would grin and blush and say that at the house, his wife was the boss! Cindy

Anonymous said...

cont.
But, it isn't just the countries east of Europe, if we look back in time. The play by Henrik Ibsen "A Doll's house" well illustrates the dominion men had over their wives in the Netherlands around the turn of the century. I many places it was completely suitable to put the wife in an asylum if she disobeyed, forever, to rot, for surely she was crazy not to obey. For perspectives here in the states, a wife used to have a dowry in many places, families lived in close houses and compounds in the rural areas and the new wives were to serve the family and give up her education if she had any, there was no such thing as raping your own wife until the 1980s etc. Of course, not as damnable as burning them alive! But I still know of women in their 60s who worked outside the home their whole lives that encourage their granddaughters not to report rape if a male family member was even just present as a chaperone....it is too humiliating to the male who was derelict in his protection duties.
What I've noticed in common, knowing the general history and personal stories both here and abroad, is that women's "societal value" and freedoms increases as families are "broken" from a plot of land and the younger members have to move to cities to earn money. It is sped up tremendously if her father values her and wants the daughter to be educated, even more so than the mother. The same can be said even for female genital mutilations that female family members will often enforce more actively than the male family members. Every time I am in a place that someone has deemed a "third world country" I see he recent past of my own home country (America), that I was not born in, nor set foot in for the first several years. We are all so much more similar than we are different. That from a crusty old female soldier who gave up having a family of her own in order to serve her fellow world citizens and animals/environment harmed by man, through serving in her country's military...freaky, no?

So, a little trip around the world, to agree that education of women and seeing their economic value outside the home are two of the keys to eradicating the horrors visited upon not just the women, but the world society as a whole.

Thank you for keeping these stories out there, knowledge shared and learned from is the true power.
Cindy

Anonymous said...

I am sad. I can't even kill an animal, but the people on the other side of the world are killing the people they know.
I wonder what's got into them. Do they even have human hearts?

Anonymous said...

I am a student studying human rights in my politics class, and this article was invaluable. Your knowledge in this issue has really extensively informed me about this squalid breach of human rights. Thanks a bunch!

Anonymous said...

In the mid sixties my friend married into a provincial french family. It was not part of our culture that her father provide anything except pay for the wedding in our native country. Her mil was not pleased at her son's choice (mixed race). Comments were made about my friend not bringing a 'dot' (french dowry) into the family. So it is not just Asians who have these problems. No bride burning here but my friend was made to feel very uncomfortable. At the christening of her first child, her mil told her that the French custom was ..that the mother did not attend the baptism. So my friend stayed home....of course this was a lie. Why do we women do this to each other? It is beyond me. I heard something today...If women ruled the world...countries would stop talking to each other. There is some truth in that joke

Hanna Ali said...

Aisha,
I saw this on yahoo news and had to share! Angry Brides game -

http://games.yahoo.com/blogs/plugged-in/angry-brides-game-targets-indian-dowry-demands-202113465.html

Anonymous said...

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