"Let Only Your Corpse Come Out of that House" : an Analysis of Contemporary Dowry Discourses in Indian Newspapers
Philosophy and Religion
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AbstractThe purpose of this essay is to examine the complex social and cultural practice of dowry, and violence related to dowry, in India. The dowry system may at first appear to be an old-fashioned and traditional institution that in face of modernization would slowly fade away. The economic and social changes in the Indian society after Independence in 1947, particularly since the economic reforms of 1991 have on the contrary showed another direction. The practice of dowry appears to have become more widely noticeable. In the footsteps of these practices have also a wide range of social problems followed, not the least harassment and violence directed towards women which in extreme cases have led to torturing and killing of wives and daughters-in-laws when women’s parents are unable to fulfil dowry requirements. This essay firstly provides a brief an overview of traditional and contemporary dowry systems in India based on secondary sources, and identify some of the factors behind dowry related violence against women. The second part analyzes newspaper coverage of dowry in two English daily international newspapers in India – The Times of India and The Hindu - during two weeks of May 2011. The study examines how news items on dowry and dowry-related crimes are covered by these newspapers and how the underlying factors of dowry-related violence and the circumstances under which crimes against women are interpreted. From a human rights perspective, the analysis of these news items can provide a broader cultural understanding of how Indian media present to the wider society the factors behind and remedies for discrimination against women in India.