On 25th February 2021, we lost another one of our daughters, Ayesha, to suicide. We failed yet again to protect our own from the evil clutch of dowry. Just like Ayesha, there are many other women who are being tortured every day — physically, mentally, and even sexually due to the incessant practice of dowry, and it will linger until a serious step is taken to remove it from the very roots of Indian culture.
Marriage in India is suffused with traditions and socio-cultural beliefs followed over the years that keep modifying with the changing time. However, one custom that obstinately combats change and modification is dowry.
The dowry system is one of the most preposterous and deep-rooted social evil practiced in our society which perpetuates the subjugation, torture, and homicide of women in India. Although dowry had been outlawed in 1961 and many laws have been introduced that prohibit the practice of dowry, not much has changed in the last two decades. The ban of dowry remains to be a challenge to be enforced entirely.
In 2012, 8,233 dowry death cases were reported across India, which infers that a bride is burned every 90 minutes, and dowry subjects 1.4 deaths per year per 100,000 women in India.
The most recent case of dowry that ignited fury among the netizens was that of 23-year-old Ayesha Khan, who committed suicide due to harassment by her husband for dowry.
Ayesha Khan lived in Almina Park in Vatva, Ahmedabad. She worked in the ICICI Bank, mutual funds division, and was a final year student of MA in Economics in SV Commerce College at Relief Road in Ahmedabad. She got married to Aarif Khan, a private supervisor of mining, on July 6, 2018. However, after two years of marriage, she moved out of her husband’s place because of the incessant torment and harassment imposed by him.
On 25th February 2021, the 23-year-old recorded a video message before jumping into the Sabarmati river which eventually led to her demise.
"I am happy and I want to die in peace, I don't want to fight, I love Arif." "One thing I learned from this life is that one should never go with unrequited love and some people are so ill-fated that their love is not fulfilled even after their marriage."
These are the lines from the spine-chilling video Ayesha recorded before committing suicide. She had a huge smile on her face throughout the video and only wished well for her estranged husband. The video went viral on all social platforms and spiked fury among the people who sympathized with the misery of the 23-year old Ayesha who perished at the hands of her in-laws and her callous husband. Eventually, the call for justice on all social media platforms led to the arrest of her husband Aarif Khan, who absconded after he was booked on the charges of abetting the suicide of her wife. However, the arrest did not pacify the family of Ayesha who was left shattered after hearing the news of her daughter’s demise. They suffered an irreparable loss which they will have to live with.
Just like Ayesha, there many other women who are tortured every day by their in-laws which perpetrates physical, mental, or even sexual violence against the bride, leading to divorce or in the majority of cases, suicide. It is not just the woman who suffers, but the custom of dowry puts her whole family under mental pressure. Bearing in mind the far-reaching effects the practice of dowry has in our society, it’s high time now that we need to firmly stand up against this practice instead of just sympathizing with the family of the dead. We should teach our sons that partners should be chosen and not bought. Raising the critical consciousness among daughters about their identity and self-worth remains an important factor for effective strategies.
“Any young man, who makes dowry a condition to marriage, discredits his education and his country and dishonors womanhood.”Mahatma Gandhi
Sidra Fatima is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Rutba Iqbal
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.