Saturday, January 28, 2012

Hinduism And Burning Women Alive

India under British rule.
I was sitting at my kids' karate studio the other day and reading through the India Times. I found this article Dowry death: One bride burnt every hour. My jaw dropped as I read the piece. I can't remember the last time an article stunned me so much.
In a crime that is prevalent only in India, greedy husbands and his relatives harass the newly wed bride for getting more dowry, and often kill her in the process. And, very often, she is burnt alive. This horror is therefore called bride-burning or in official terms, dowry death.
When I try to wrap my mind around this, I can feel individuals neurons bursting. How does a person understand such insanity? Well, at least there must be fewer brides getting immolated than there were, let's say, in the past decade. After all, India is the world's largest democracy, and isn't history on the side of Enlightenment virtues?
In 2010, there were 8391 reported cases of dowry death in the country. That works out to a shocking one death every hour approximately. Bride-burning is on the increase - just a decade ago, in 2000, there were 6995 cases.
Apparently not.
Although the government prohibited dowry through legislation in 1961, it was never implemented properly. Prohibition officers were supposed to have been appointed in each district, taking the battle to the grassroots but nothing happened. And, the tide of greed driven murder of young brides continued unabated.
...But perhaps the primary reason for spread of this cancer has been the almost complete absence of any public campaign or mobilization against it for the past 25 years. As a result, girls are considered a burden on the parents, families go bankrupt trying to get their daughters married off, choice in forming relations is frowned upon and thousands - maybe lakhs - of young women suffer violence silently behind closed doors.


I found another article concerning dowry death: Bride Burning and dowry deaths in India: Gruesome and Escalating Violence on Women. This article points to a major cause of the misogynistic practice: Hinduism.
In fact, most dowry deaths have occurred in the upper strata of Hindu communities, i.e., the Brahmins (the caste of priests cum the Kings' policy-makers), Kshatriyas (the caste of warriors now-turned politicians), and Vaishyas (the traders now-transformed sponsors of conservative parties). Most killing of women for non-payment of "promised" dowry have so far occurred in the urban affluent upper-caste Hindu communities.
The author of the paper, Rani Jethmalani, a now deceased lawyer who had worked in India's Supreme court, found five reasons why the barbaric practice continues:
1) retention of the caste system, (2) undermining of the woman by the religious orthodox and social patriarch making herself and her family vulnerable to socio-economic pressure and extortion, (3) ever-increasing greed of the bridegroom and his family, (4) an economically strangled hyperpopulated society non-supportive of unmarried women, and (5) a morally depraved political system run by the pro-status quo conservatives.
Caste, for those of you not aware of it, is a rigid hierarchical social system which people are born into, and native to India. There is no movement from one caste to another. If your parents were untouchables then you are a untouchable along with your future children. Of course, it's your own damn fault (religion always tells it's adherents it's their own damn fault), because you must have been very bad in your past life to be reborn in such a crappy caste.

As if the story couldn't get any more strange, there is a new video game to combat killing brides called Angry Brides.
To play the game, users have to try and hit three dodging grooms — a pilot, builder and doctor. There is a wide array of weapons to choose from, including a stiletto shoe, a frying pan, broomstick, tomato and loafer.
Each groom has a price tag, starting at 1.5 million rupees ($29,165). Every time the player hits a groom, his value decreases and money is added to the player’s Anti-Dowry Fund, which is saved posted on their Facebook page.
See, if only we had video games in the US during Segregation the whole Civil Rights movement could have been avoided by winning the hearts and minds of bigots through pixels.

This is Purgatory.


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