The story of ‘THE UNAFFORDABLE ECONOMIC BURDEN OF INDIA’, namely,-‘The Girl Child’

Marriages are seldom an affair between two people in India, rather involve two large families, their bits and want, frequently ending up with age-old customs and malice, which often pose a threat to the marriage itself.

Well, let us now meet, the antihero, whose doing, in this context most usually leads to a disconcerted life, time and again involving domestic violence and occasionally death.

Yes, you heard it right-death of the bride is the recent common trend in India, every so often in the name of DOWRY, the breath and blood of modern India.

Paying and accepting dowry is a centuries-old practice in South Asia involving the transfer of a huge chunk of money, in the form of gold, land/property and vehicle from the bride’s parents to the groom and these have become a substantial portion of the modern Indian household, perpetually illustrating the life of an Indian girl child as “an unaffordable economic burden of India”, contributing its share to the never-ending sex-selective abortions/ female infanticide in India.

Although identified as a social evil, in the pre-independent era itself, dowry and dowry-related violence still remain deeply rooted in the veins of the Indian subcontinent, transforming the institution of marriage into yet another commercial transaction, where generating money is a lot simpler.

According to National Family Health Survey (NFHS), at least one in every five married women in India suffers domestic abuse since the age of fifteen. And the most commonly reported violence includes harsh language (80%), physical abuse (63%), involving beating, kicking, striking etc. and forcing them back to their family home (52%).

And what is more astonishing is that all of these occur amidst the existence of several laws pertaining to dowry including:

  • The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, is the first National Regulation dealing with the dowry.
  • Indian Penal Code, 1860, states dowry-related violence, is a criminal offence.
  • Indian evidence Act, 1872, which takes into account the nature of offences.
  • Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973that requires the police to send the body of a deceased woman for post-mortem investigation, if death happened within seven years of marriage.

From the above data, it is evident that raising the social consciousness of the population might be the only way to eradicate this social scourge from society.

Perpetual greed, patriarchal norms, male-dominated society, desire to flaunt social status, a false sense of prestige, lack of formal education and ignorance are the primary reasons for this public sin, that has murdered and disabled countless vulnerable women, forcing them to commit suicide.

Married at 26, it took me several years to find a man who recognized dowry as a social evil and stood up to say a solid NO to it, before which I was rejected by a dozen guys in the name of ‘The Great Indian Dowry’ and by another couple of dozens, unwilling to take a stand, out loud, of course secretly desiring to toss me around as a mere commodity. This is my story, also the story of every other woman in India.

“Any young man, who makes dowry, a condition to marriage, discredits his education and his country and dishonours womanhood.”-Mahatma Gandhi.

Husna Zakariyya is an anti-CAA anti-NRC activist from Kerala who is working for the Dalit/minority rights in India. She has worked as part of The Shaheen Bagh Solidarity Protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act at Thiruvananthapuram as a media coordinator. She is an aspiring writer and journalist, who holds a postgraduate degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Kerala and also has an advanced diploma in TV News Journalism and a PG diploma in Print Journalism from the Institute of Journalism, Press Club, Thiruvananthapuram. She has written many papers addressing discrimination, racism and oppression of women. She is often outspoken against patriarchal norms and is keen to bring the unheard voices of women and minorities to the forefront.

Music and Community Building

The impact of art and creativity in building and sustaining peace is an area that needs more attention. It is hard to lead an existence with no ear for music. On that note, we began the third session of Ecopeace Teen Cafe Ambassador Programme on 30th October 2021 at 7.00 pm IST, With Janielle Beh as the guest speaker.

Sitting in a cafe in Rwanda, Janielle related her journey with music that she began at the age of 12. She narrated her experiences in Afghanistan, where she spent three years teaching music and connecting with young students. It is also difficult for her to see the plight of the country under religious fundamentalism. She showed us some photographs with her students in Afghanistan as well as in Rwanda. In her introduction, she talked about the necessity of music in every culture. As a passionate musician, she seeks to create opportunities in places where music is needed, but hard to practice. One thing that she repeatedly stated throughout the session was how music is a gift that one cannot lose at any time in life. If you cannot give anything to a person, you can always give them music, write a song for them. Even if you are in a prison, music and the art that it carries cannot be shackled.

Janielle was open to questions from the participants. One of the students, Kalyani, asked her about her experience in India, which she positively connects as a wonderful experience. She got to teach students in Mumbai as well as street children in Delhi. She happily looks back at those times and cherishes the eagerness that those children showed her in learning music.

Greshma, the founder of the programme, also asked her about her extraordinary experiences in meeting people who are genocide survivors and local heroes. Janielle was quick to recall a couple who helped abandoned children and women in Afghanistan by providing them a shelter home. In Rwanda, she came across a woman in the streets whose loss of loved ones at a tender age inspired her to be a champion of widows.

When Greshma asked her about the religious conflicts that ravage the world and how music can heal wounds, she replied that her experience has showed music as a platform where people from different cultures have come together to create a new world. She has seen people learning from each other through music and killing the prejudices that they might have about each other. For her, music is not competitive, but soothing and artistic.

Furthering the session, Daniel, one of our volunteers, asked about the connection music has with nature. It was heartening to hear that she considers nature to be divine and that leaves birds, and stars make sounds in reverence to the divinity that surrounds us.

Janielle’s words were enlightening for the young people with us. She told us the importance of having a purpose in life. Even when one cannot find it, constantly attempting to discover one’s passion and purpose is vital to living happily.

After the Q&A, the students were led to a song-writing activity. A screen was shared for them, asking them to pick two words from a range of terms like believe, light, ceasefire, violence, etc. They were asked to think of an issue that affects a community like racism, gender discrimination, or even a personal crisis that hinders an individual from moving forward in life. The students quickly responded to all these.

Next, they were asked to write 4 lines based on the issue with the two terms as the keywords. Within two minutes, all of them wrote 4 lines and posted them on the chatbox for everyone to read. Janielle was very appreciative of the wholehearted participation that the students showed. She said that the session would have been more engaging if it was conducted offline, to which all of us agree.

Towards the end, Daniel expressed a token of gratitude to her on behalf of all the team members. Janielle also conveyed her good wishes to all the participants and her desire to revisit India in the near future.
The healing power of music and the way it connects humanity despite all the differences that we impose on ourselves were narrated by this passionate musician, nudging us to think of art and creation as tools for peace and harmony.

About the author

Vani K

An enthusiast in literature, aspiring teacher, and a listener more than a speaker, consider each day as an opportunity for learning.

Birth of Ecopeace Teen Cafe

When I was doing my internship at Earth Charter International Secretariat based in Costa Rica in the year 2019, one day, Mirian Vilela, Executive Director, suddenly came out of her office and observed a toucan. The entire team went outside and observed the bird with enthusiasm. Back then, I did not care much about the beauty of nature, but living with nature-loving people on a green campus transformed my life. I started observing nature more and realised how the beauty of nature influences us, thereby becoming more peaceful humans.

It was then that I began to think about sharing this spirit of love for nature with younger generations in India as a means to spread awareness of peace through love. When I came back to India, I started working from the ground level. However, the year 2020 proved challenging when the whole world was struck by the pandemic. I was confused with countless questions. I wondered how I can reach more children at this point, whether online space is safe for children and how I can overcome the issues posed by the digital divide.

Furthermore, attending the Peace Practice Alliance programme organised by the Euphrates Institute from March 2021- August 2021 imparted a new direction to my path. It rekindled hope and confidence within me to utilize online spaces in creating connections and building communities without borders. Words of Jamila, my big sister from the Philippines, motivated me to take the first step towards this project. The mentorship has given by James Offuh, Sylvia Murray, Hollister Thomas, Katy Friedman Lunardelli, Sally Mahe, Amanda Bennett and Sarah Oliver also made this journey smooth and more successful.

With a renewed sense of optimism, I started recruiting volunteers in August. I got applications from different parts of the world. My Ecopeace Teen Cafe Team, Aleena, Khadeejah Bint Malik, Vani, Nadia, Joshua, Eduardo, Victor, Amy, Haripriya, and Daniel, have put their relentless efforts behind the success of this venture up till now. I want to thank all of you for your contributions. Moving forward, the selection process lasted about two weeks. We planned a community project that turned out to be a national project. We got participants from different parts of the country. Among the 62 applications that we received, we selected 29 students for the first cohort of the eco peace ambassador program.

On October 2, 2021, Dr Abraham Karickam, Secretary-General of United Religions Initiative, who has been guiding me since my teenage years, officially inaugurated the project. As his student, this is a moment of happy manifestation in my life. Thank you so much for supporting me in each step.

Dr Miriam Vilela, Executive Director of Earth Charter International, delivered the keynote speech. I was fortunate to do an internship under her supervision. She gave me a task to find the impacts of the Earth Charter Movement. That helped me to understand how the Earth Charter helps in creating a just and peaceful world. It motivated me to commit to the Earth Charter and introduce this platform to teenagers to share the soul of this living document that promotes inclusivity and peace. Ecopeace Teen Cafe got life on this Gandhi Jayanti. This project is our tribute to the Mahatma. We are committed to spreading the message of nonviolence and peace to generations.

Let’s grow together and act together.

About the author