March 8 every year is celebrated as International Women’s Day. Annually, this day is celebrated with a theme. “Choose To Challenge” was the theme this year. Apparently, the context of the theme was about the need for the women to challenge odds and march ahead in every sphere of life. There is perhaps more needed to be done to let her flourish and prosper. There is a pressing need to challenge the ills prevailing in the society which continue to threaten her because all sorts of tragedies befall daughters-in-law from kitchen fires, suicides and mysterious ailments. Marriage and money continue to be tied together. The fact that dowry has been illegal since 1961 means little. The vast majority of families, from the urban elite to other sections, still pay some form of dowry. The deaths remain an ominuous ignominy across India. Jammu and Kashmir is no exception. Various forms of crimes against women exist. On February 25, a 24-year-old Ayesha Banu, 24, a resident of Ahmedabad, recorded a video message before she jumped into the Sabarmati river and ended her life. This tragic end to life, plainly forced by dowry demand, is not a solitary incident. Numerous lives are lost every year and some remain shrouded in mystery. Sometimes the murders are disguised as suicides or kitchen injuries from exploding stoves, even though husbands or in-laws drove the women to kill themselves.
According to the latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data for IPC cases, a woman becomes a victim of dowry death roughly every one hour. Additionally, she becomes a victim of cruelty by her husband or in-laws every four minutes. As per law, women who die within seven years of marriage must be autopsied. There is also need for awareness as the official figures of dowry deaths remain just the tip of the iceberg. A clearer picture would emerge with more awareness. When nothing is heard about it, it does that mean it has vanished. The grim aspect remains when it becomes so entrenched that no one thinks it to be worth talking about. The women still being forced to take extreme steps for dowry in contemporary times should enrage one and all. There is a need to address the demand. Simplicity in marriages is the need of the hour. Daughters’ need education and opportunity for financial independence. The dowry is illegal and continues to be so for decades. Drastic changes are needed to kill dowry and not her.