Dowry is an origin of extreme poverty as well as it helps to create violence against women, researchers and the speakers told to a national workshop organised by UST in association with shiree.
Unnayan Shahojogi Team (UST) organised a national workshop on dowry and poverty at the LGED auditorium on 22nd March 2010 in the capital and shared a recently conducted study with the participants from different walk of life including NGO representatives, rural men and women and civil society representatives.
The study claimed that the moderate poor are becoming extreme poor through provision of dowry. Extreme poor people get different supports from NGO especially microfinance and on the way of fighting to change their current condition some of them become moderate poor and then they fall in the dowry trap and gradually become extreme poor. This is a vicious cycle through which poor people of this country are doing ‘left-right’ only without any real advancement.
The findings also tell that the dowry is a broadly practiced social evil which encourage people to talk in favour of it as well as justify its necessity in the society. The study revealed that although dowry is illegal under the law of ‘Dowry Prohibition Act 1980’, still it is a widely practised social custom. It is one of the main causes of child marriage, domestic violence, oral divorce and polygamy in the country.
Many poor families compel to sale their valuable assets such as cows, ornaments, crop growing land even homestead land for fulfilling the dowry demand, the study also mentioned that the households who have a daughter feel insecure and believe that they have to face huge problems while marrying off their girl child.
Enforcement of law against dowry, ensuring involvement of community including local government representatives, income generating activities for girls and awareness on law and human rights can assist to prevent dowry, the study added.
Ranjan Karmaker, Executive Director of Steps toward Development, told, “Our society measures women as commodities while men are considered as assets. In our society women don’t get respect as a human being. Society always undermines women and that’s why women are victims of dowry”.
Dr. Badiul Alam Majumder, global vice president and country director of the Hunger Project also spoke; he gave importance to initiate social movement against dowry. A project or an NGO can’t eliminate dowry, dowry is robustly connected with other social evils and due to that we have to be united against dowry and create a movement against dowry he supplemented.
Advocate Sultana Kamal, executive director of Ain O Shalish Kendro and former adviser to the caretaker government, notified, “Dowry is strongly linked with poverty; dowry is a major source of violence against women, it makes a woman completely undignified. Dowry will never be eliminated if women empowerment is not ensured. Women can carry out any kind of work if they get opportunity; women contribute a lot but don’t get recognition from the family as well as society”. “We have to take a holistic approach to work against dowry otherwise we would not be successful with a project like economic empowerment merely”, she added.
She further mentioned; “this study did not give value on women empowerment. The study says that the number of young women is higher than that of young men – which is statistically incorrect. How can the researchers write it? Did they count it? This study mentions about `young men’ and `young women’ several times but what is the definition of `young men’ and `young women’? The study did not give any definition”.
“Study gives a recommendation regarding formation of a Imam Committee (committee of religious leaders) to prevent dowry which is unfortunate, Imams are not gender sensitive at all, they are anti women element in the society and their main role is to give opinion against women; why they will work in favour of women?” She asked.
“This study is conducted through a patriarchal view; it has given preference to prepare girls for a marriage; marriage is not everything for a girl, a girl can do many things in her life; she can be involved in an economic activity and she can developed herself as a bread winner for her family, then if she wish she can marry too”, she concluded.