Bride Burnings in India

the devaluation of women in SE Asia

Hindu beliefs that devalue women:

  • Being born an woman is considered a punishment for defects of a previous life (a woman has poor karma and is demoted when she is reincarnated)
  • Hindu women's lives are expected to revolve around men (first their fathers...later their husbands)
  • Ideal woman is devoted to father and later her husband
  • Because of the belief in tradition and reincarnation, Hindu men and women perpetuate patriarchal beliefs that reinforce Indian women's dependence on men

What is DOWRY?

  • Dowry is the "property" that women bring with them to her new family when she is married.
  • Historically, property was passed down to male children, and female children would receive "movable" property with value ($$, jewels, other valuables)
  • In India - females tend to be devalued as compared to men - women are an economic liability to parents; dowry is seen as "payment" for taking a woman off her parents' hands

Why is DOWRY negative for Indian women?

Dowry is NOT just an "inheritance" or "marital gifts" -
  • dowry is a burden - it makes baby girls seem like an economic burden; infanticide is practiced against in utero or infant girls; girls receive less food in homes, as well as less education and health care
  • families go into debt to provide dowries - take out large loans or go into bonded labor
  • dowry system creates competition- "bride shopping"
  • brides are passive pawns in marriage game - they have no power over their dowries and subsequent bargaining
  • greed for larger dowries results in women being murdered or committing suicide
Bride Burning
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Why are women being burned or killed?

  • Greed - if a woman is killed, the groom and his family are free to marry again and benefit from another dowry
  • Corrupt officials and investigators have been guilty of taking bribes to designate murders as "suicides" or "oven deaths"
  • Women are contributing to the situation (as greedy mother-in-law's) - most brides leave her parents' home and go to live in a communal family arrangement with the groom's family
  • Many bride families feel shame and dishonor with the thought of taking their daughter back to their home - also further burden to support as an unmarried or divorced young woman
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Will education help?

  • View is that education will result in social change and growth away from this destructive system
  • Families are slow to educate girls - cost $, and then requires larger dowry to have a husband from higher caste or increased education

Why is this so difficult to change?

  • Religious roots - even when dowry is outlawed, because of its religious foundation, it is difficult to eliminate
  • Consumerism and greed - people seek money and valuable assets
  • Cultural devaluation of women - women have always been seen as inferior to men in India

By: Robin Robarge

Global - Patterson - period 7

Teays, Wanda. "The Burning Bride: The Dowry Problem in India." Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 7.2 (1991): 29-52. JSTOR. Web. 13 May 2016.