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Dowry and Its Link to Violence Against Women in India : Feminist Psychological Perspectives
Mudita Rastogi and Paul Therly Trauma Violence Abuse 2006 7: 66 DOI: 10.1177/1524838005283927 The online version of this article can be found at: http://tva.sagepub.com/content/7/1/66
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January 2006 66-77 DOI: 10. & ABUSE. and AUTHORS’ NOTE: Dr. Therly / DOWR TRAUMA. Existing and new explanations of the dowry system and its ramifications are explored. Therly and chaired by Dr. Dissatisfaction with the amount of dowry may result in abuse of the bride. Other portions of this paper are derived from a clinical research project written by Dr. A live band was playing festive music. and the reception had begun. Rastogi presented portions of this paper in March 2004 at a workshop for the Indian Association for Family Therapy. dowry flourishes among all social classes.1177/1524838005283927ABUSE / January 2006 Y COMMENTARY DOWRY AND ITS LINK TO VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN INDIA Feminist Psychological Perspectives MUDITA RASTOGI Illinois School of Professional Psychology. 2011 .1177/1524838005283927 © 2006 Sage Publications 66 Downloaded from tva. Vol.com by RAVI BABU BUNGA on October 31. This article conducts a feminist psychological analysis of the dowry phenomenon. The majority of the 500 guests were inching their way toward the buffet tables. 7. Psychologically based interventions and the implications of dowryrelated violence in the larger context of Asian Indians living in North America and the United Kingdom are discussed. The groom’s father cornered the THE FIRST AUTHOR OF THIS ARTICLE witnessed the following scene at a close relative’s wedding in a large Indian city: The wedding ceremony was over. & 10. India. Key words: dowry. Argosy University PAUL THERLY Southdown Institute Dowry is exchanged in a majority of Indian weddings. Rastogi. VIOLENCE. In extreme cases “dowry deaths” or the murder of the bride by her husband and his family take place. Although its practice became illegal in 1961.sagepub. Asians Indian. Laughter surrounded the happy couple. 1. India. psychological perspectives. Families of the bride and groom negotiate transfer of assets to the groom and his family in exchange for marrying the bride. VIOLENCE. often within the context of an arranged marriage. and the role of the perpetrators. New Delhi.Rastogi. No. violence servers holding trays of drinks and appetizers circulated among the guests. TRAUMA. its link to domestic violence against women.
Before a marriage is finalized. isolation. Dowry is the wealth a bride is supposed to bring with her for her husband and his family starting at the time of the wedding and continuing during marriage. were either given or received dowry. household goods.sagepub. Thus. the bride and groom waved goodbye to the bride’s family from inside a brand new car that still had some of the dealership stickers stuck on the back. Therefore. Teja (1993) found that the marriages of 90. legal. social stigma of being divorced. virtually every marriage in India involves dowry in some form even though regional and community differences exist.” The bride’s father knew exactly what was being conveyed to him. • It is practiced in some form or the other in a majority of Asian Indian families. the prospective bride presents herself before the prospective groom and his Downloaded from tva. especially in North America and the United Kingdom. a lack of economic options available to them. economic. abuse. and learned helplessness. He ended with an explicit demand. The examination of the role of other women in oppressing and abusing a woman in connection with dowry is often neglected. • The role of women in perpetrating violence against other women is explained by gender and power issues.3% who did not respond. and violence against women. except the 1. and psychological reasons such as depression. parents have a very significant role in the marriage arrangements in Indian culture. over time this voluntary act began to be considered a groom’s entitlement.Rastogi. 2011 . The dowry system and related abuses are complex phenomena. This article puts forth a psychological framework for looking at the abuse associated with the dowry system. and possibly past abuse of the mother-in-law herself. bride’s father and launched into a monologue about how he was concerned that his family would need a new car now that the bride would come to live with them. Therly / DOWRY 67 KEY POINTS OF THE RESEARCH REVIEW • Dowry is the wealth a bride brings to her husband at the time of and after the wedding. The majority of the women who found their own mates had to get approval from their parents before they got married. Economic gain for the groom’s family is a major factor in the practice of the dowry system in India as it stands today. • In cases involving violence against the bride linked with dissatisfaction over dowry. the practice continues in a vast majority of marriages. Naik (1996) conducted an extensive study on the prevalence of dowry and found that all his respondents. This article summarizes the historical and legal issues associated with d o w r y a n d p ro v i d e s a p s y c h o l o g i c a l perspective to understanding and tackling the fallout.67% unemployed women were arranged by their parents.67% of women in the workforce and of 98. and religious factors help perpetuate this practice. and so on.com by RAVI BABU BUNGA on October 31. family dynamics. • This practice is linked with the oppression. • Men are involved in violence against their wives for multiple psychosocial reasons. • The act of receiving and giving dowry was prohibited in India in 1961. 1998). The dowry system is one of the social practices through which women are oppressed. • A variety of sociocultural. It takes the form of cash. At the end of the reception 5 hours later. the mother-in-law is frequently implicated along with the groom. In an extensive study. jewelry. • Women are unable to leave their marriages because of the religious beliefs regarding the nature of marriage. MARRIAGE AND THE PREVALENCE OF DOWRY The vast majority of marriages in India are arranged (Vallabhaneni. It is an attempt to provide information and discuss im- plications of the dowry system for mental health professionals interested in Asians Indians living in India and outside of it. • Historically speaking. and feminist and/or gender analyses do not alone adequately explain the nature of this abuse. sociocultural. however. The commonly utilized explanations focus on economic. He immediately sent off two of his brothers to a car dealership. The demands associated with dowry are linked with numerous acts of gender discrimination and abuse of women within Indian society. or even tortured and killed. He wanted the bride’s father to provide a “gift” of a new car “to make sure that the bride (his daughter) was transported everywhere in a style that befit her.
or • by the parents of either party to a marriage or by any other person to either party to the marriage or to any other person. if dowry promises are not fulfilled the bride will be sent back to the parent’s home (Umar. Sahai. Dowry was considered women’s property (known as stridhan in Hindi). This is considered shameful for the bride’s family but not for the groom’s. 367). Tambiah. ORIGIN OF DOWRY SYSTEM: A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE “In prehistoric times women were regarded as chattel and so it was the bride’s father. 2011 .. The higher he is ranked on these criteria. it depends on the status. There is contradictory evidence in Hindu scriptures to suggest that women who are economically privileged used to bring large amounts of gifts to the husbands’ family after marriage (Altekar. Indeed. family. assault. This process demonstrates the unequal status of women and men in a marriage. p. p. at or before or after the marriage as consideration for the marriage of the said parties. and bride burning) and their families resulting from the practice of dowry on women. Even after marriage. 69). However. The norms for the amount of dowry vary. 1998). it shifted from being a gift to the bride to being considered a groom’s entitlement. the bargaining over her dowry begins” (p. this became a common practice among the upper classes (Umar. Iglitzin and Ross (1986) said that “she is scrutinized. 1992. the parents of young women wanted to marry them to economically well-off men. 1986). 1998). Dowry is one of the central issues in an arranged marriage that can make or break the deal.g. it was outlawed in India in 1961. 1991. 1990). and if approved. CURRENT PRACTICES AND THEIR IMPACT The Dowry Prohibition Act of India (1961) defines dowry as “any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given. 1991). some have a tradition of expecting larger dowries. Such a broad definition underscores the complexity involved in dowry practice. Expectations also vary by community. However. According to Kumari (1989). the dowry was presented to the bride by her extended family to strengthen her financial position in her in-law’s home and to act as insurance in the event that the marriage ended for any reason (Naik. 169). 1973).sagepub. 1996). 1989. directly or indirectly: • by one party to a marriage to the other party. Currently. or even tortured and killed. 1989. the hypergamous system of marriage among aristocratic families gave incentive to the practice of dowry. in many cases.com by RAVI BABU BUNGA on October 31. the higher the dowry he commands (Iglitzin & Ross. & ABUSE / January 2006 The dowry system is one of the social practices through which women are oppressed. and education of a man (Billing. They willingly paid the cost of such a marriage through providing a huge dowry to the departing bride.” or additional gifts accompany the main gift (Kumari. dowry is not something that is given exclusively at the beginning of a marriage but continues. but does not include “dower” or “mahr” in the case of persons to whom the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) applies” (Umar. VIOLENCE. and out of pure affection. In addition. harassment. In medieval times. social class. and women had complete control of it (Kumari. The rules under this system prescribed that a woman of a lower class could marry a man of a higher socioeco- nomic status (SES) but not vice versa. dowry is seen as the property a woman brings to her husband at the time of and during the marriage to compensate for the “financial burden” that her very existence places on her in-laws (Diwan. for years.68 TRAUMA. the law failed to be im- Downloaded from tva. By the 13th and 14th century. 1998. and not the bridegroom. Daughters were given in marriage as religious gifts (known as kanyaadaan) and dowry was regarded as “dakshina. 17). 1996). The parents of the woman considered such an alliance advantageous to them in bringing them power and prestige. p. Over time. who was regarded as justified in demanding a payment at the time of marriage” (Altekar. The father lost control over the labor of his daughter after her marriage and was paid in kind to compensate for it. Because of the severe abuse suffered by women (e. these presents were not called dowries for they were voluntarily made after the marriage.
Sociocultural Factors and Gender Discrimination Many families desire to secure a financially secure husband for daughters. According to Bumiller (1990). dowry flourishes among all social mostly unpaid work and classes. (p.sagepub.Rastogi. India. When dowry demands are not met. . women from low-income families end up with unsatisfactory mates. (b) the parents of the bride are financially drained in the wedding process and cannot take on any more financial obligations. These families have to take on huge debts or use up their life’s savings to provide adequate dowry. (d) there is a social stigma against divorce. deserted. Umar (1998) said that Many more cases go unreported or recorded simply as accidental death in connivance with police officials . In Indian households. Nair.com by RAVI BABU BUNGA on October 31. These factors are examined in detail below. religious. They are believed to perpetuate gender discrimination that. 2011 . Therly / DOWRY 69 plemented. As a consequence. and Umar (1998) reported that that number to be 5. the bride’s parents are aware of the abuse to which their daughters are Downloaded from tva. Kumari (1989) who conducted a study in the city of Delhi showed the alarming number of dowry-related deaths. are unable to support themselves initially without support from others. 1978). When parents are unable to put together a large dowry. there is significant concern about the link between the two. The first author once worked for an agency that served women in New Delhi. The parents admitted to the therapist (first author) that they were aware that their daughter was “unhappy” with her husband but did not realize the extent of her troubles. 1998). and (e) religious beliefs dictate that a woman consider her husband as God for her salvation (Kumari. it precipitates serious consequences. 1989. Their most devastating regret was that they had failed to support her when she wanted to leave her husband a month after the marriage. continued to rise. According to Prasad (1994). they marry their daughters off to significantly older men or to grooms who are considered “less desirable” and thus do not demand dowry.582 in 1993. Although not all people practicing the dowry system are also involved in domestic violence. These are discussed in greater detail below. A combination of these issues contributes to keeping many Indian wives in abusive homes. and the associated abuse of women. in turn. most parents of brides simply do not have a choice in the matter of giving dowry. Domestic violence is a common outcome and includes physical and emotional abuse. . The daughter’s in-laws claimed the death resulted from the victim’s clothes accidentally catching fire in the kitchen and cremated her remains before the woman’s parents were notified. The latter option is also considered to be a shameful issue for the entire family. They believed that their daughter was burned to death by her in-laws following almost 1 year of abuse around the issue of dowry. These numbers exclude the women who were harassed. only five percent were noted as murders and five percent as suicides. over ninety percent of the cases of women burnt to death in Delhi were registered as accidents. have to remain single. and the practice of dowry. and economic factors. 2) There are several reasons Although its practice became illegal in why this is so: (a) a majority of the women do 1961. In a majority of cases. there were 4. fuels the ongoing cycle of dowry. violence against women is one of the most socially accepted crimes (Umar. (c) there are cultural expectations that women must suffer to save their marriage. PERPETUATION OF THE DOWRY SYSTEM The most popular explanations for the continuation of the dowry system as found in the literature have to do with sociocultural. An older couple came seeking a referral for legal services. and physically and mentally abused in relation to dowry. However. There were 421 reported “dowry deaths” in 1981 and almost 700 in 1984 in Delhi.215 dowry-related deaths in the country in 1989. the number of women who die because of dowry-related violence is much higher than the total number of deaths due to all other forms of violence or accidents. or in some cases.
the literacy rate is lower for women by nearly 20 points compared to male literacy rate. “The ideal of womanhood incorporated by Sita is one of chastity. Children are often one of the major reasons for a woman to continue to live with her abuser. 1996. Economic Factors Most women in India are still illiterate. Religious Factors Popular culture exhorts women to be like Sita. a son is an asset and brings wealth through dowry (Guha. 1990). she might lose custody of her children or be left with the sole responsibility of bringing them up. whatever are the hardships of life. Women are only considered as vehicles for bearing sons. there is an expectation that a good wife will never leave her husband or seek divorce whatever be the misery she may be going through in life. p. Often the daughters are persuaded by their own parents. and then gifted away (Kakar. Most Indian women do not seek help outside of the family system because of strong cultural expectations to keep family secrets contained. As a result. and getting remarried. 1988) with a dowry. lack training. While the Indian civil law makes provisions for divorce. Male children are preferred over female children for religious reasons too. Such moral expectations are not demanded from men in the Indian society. According to Hindu scriptures. 1998). According to Guha (1996). In addition. The financial drain of dowry is an important reason why Indian parents prefer male offspring to female (Bumiller.e. explicitly and implicitly. Female sex discrimination is also evident in the literacy rate. A divorced status might prevent one from getting a job. 2011 . have to be chaste and should be faithful to their husbands. The birth of a son is celebrated. In addition. 1996). marriage is not only indissoluble but also eternal. Parental preference for sons gives rise to female feticide where the female fetus is aborted. Kakar (1978. Kakar. 1988) called this the “ego ideal” of women in Indian culture. and have only limited access to productive assets (Guha. In contrast. “8000 abortions that followed sexdetermination test only one involved a male fetus. For example. Unmarried. Women worry about potential or actual dangers to which their children will be exposed if the marital relationship is terminated. This gender discrimination contributes to unequal employment opportunities Downloaded from tva. the birth of a daugh- ter is an occasion for silence and sadness (Guha. slights or thoughtlessness” (Kakar. & ABUSE / January 2006 subjected. VIOLENCE. and when they are unfit or unwilling to perform this function they are considered useless (Umar. 66). gentle tenderness and a singular faithfulness which cannot be destroyed or even disturbed by her husbands rejection. 1998). 1996). 441). not discuss their situation with others. 1988). purity. 169). 1996). p. Umar (1998) reported a number of incidents where women are terrorized and even killed for being unable to produce a male child. i. as one study found (Sahai. if a woman leaves her husband. Hindu belief considers marriage not only a contract but also a sacrament.sagepub. 1998. a daughter is considered to be another’s property. Women caught in this situation have few alternatives. 1988. raised in her parental home. This discourages many from seeking divorce even in the face of abuse. however. Women. and encouraged to go back to violent relationships (Ghadially & Kumar. only a son is competent to redeem his parents from hell. to bear everything stoically.com by RAVI BABU BUNGA on October 31. p. 81). the ideal woman in Hindu mythology. 87% of the respondents were not aware that accepting and giving dowry is illegal. In an Indian family. separated and divorced women continue to be objects of slander and gossip because they symbolize independence from men” (Fernandez. renting a house. It is considered a social stigma to be a divorced woman (Rastogi & Wampler. Families do not invest in educating and training their daughters as highly as they do their sons for reasons discussed above.70 TRAUMA. a religious upbringing and belief system strongly discourages divorce. In India. “married women are respected because they have conformed to the social expectations of male control. 1997. 7999: 1 ratio” (Umar. 1978. This indicates a lack of primary legal education. p. Because this ideal is perpetuated widely.
1992. Singh (1996) stated that once married. Umar. 1997) explains violence as a consequence of the social roles of Downloaded from tva. 1996). 1998.). and the number of dowry-related crimes is increasing (Minturn. 1998). Umar. including her in-laws (Kakar. Whether or not they are employed outside the home. 1995. 1998). when there is family violence. 1988. Kumari. They may be encouraged to obtain a degree in higher education solely to make them more attractive matches for highly educated grooms. In addition. to dowry cuts across soexplicitly and cial class lines (Flavia. the practice still continues unchecked. 1990). 60). Vaz & Kanekar.com by RAVI BABU BUNGA on October 31. According to a study (Fernandez. 1998). 1994. It is estimated that an average Indian woman does minimum 8 hours of unpaid work in the family apart from any work outside the family (Pal. 1989. For upperclass women. older women often align themselves against. the sister-inlaw was one of the accused sentenced to imprisonment. 1988. During the period 1990-1995. There have been several attempts to eradicate dowry in India (Flavia. to bear 1988). Flavia. Feminist theory (Fernandez. Gender. Prasad. They do so by demanding a dowry equivalent to or greater than what they had to pay. Fernandez (1997) said that unlike the typical domestic violence scenario in the Western world. and psychological perspectives. 1993. in India often a mother-in-law or sister-in-law contributes to the violence perpetrated by men against women. Umar. This too continues the cycle (Naik. in practice. Naik. more than 90 per cent of the dowry death cases that reached the Supreme Court ended in conviction. Finally. In each of these cases. 1997). dian families.Rastogi. 1996. 1998) by making it illegal. middle. 2011 . Sahai. (Jethmalini & Prasad. 147) Abraham (1991) also confirmed this factor saying that in the majority of convicted cases. Often the daughters 1993. a majority of women usually do not own property in their own name. Hence. Naik.and high-SES women are often discouraged to work outside the home because it is thought to take away time and attention from their husband and children. Rastogi & Wampler. younger women who marry into their families. However. 1996. a young bride is supposed to be obedient toward not only her husband but also to all the elders in the family. other factors are at play. 1987). 1988. Clearly the dowry system adversely affects the life of Indian women (Bumiller. reasons does not satisand encouraged to factorily explain dowrygo back to violent related abuse in the Inrelationships. those families that have been financially drained by the marriages of their daughters attempt to recoup these losses when they marry off their sons. 1996. This too affects their economic power. given that male and female members are involved in perpetrating dowry-related violence.sagepub. Minturn. and it has reached a disproportionate magnitude today as demonstrated in the review of the literature (Flavia. the mother-in-law. and the Role of Perpetrators In the extended Indian families. while theoretically women enjoy equal right to inherit property (Umar. p. the increase of dowry not discuss their practice only on economic situation with others. which usually involves a lone man battering a lone woman. Even women who do bring home an income often have little control over how it is spent (Pal. Wife abuse related their own parents. DOWRY-RELATED VIOLENCE: MULTIPLE EXPLANATIONS The dowry system is a prevalent practice in India (Billing. sociocultural. 1990. with sisters and brothers-in-law often colluding or actively assisting the crime” (p. attributing everything stoically. rather than with. women are expected to do all the housework and rearing of children (Chatterji. This housework is not considered productive labor. 1987). Umar. implicitly. Hierarchy. In addition. and in some of them. Therly / DOWRY 71 and pay in adulthood. 1988. 1998). “the mother-in-law particularly is implicated. 1988). are persuaded by 1998. Umar. it is important to analyze this phenomenon from feminist.
According to this concept. the mother-in-law may turn to verbal abuse that could escalate into physical violence (Kumari. men delegate the supervision of younger women to the older women. the severe violence is done with the consent of or by the husband himself and with the implicit consent of the culture itself. The abused become the abuser. institutionalized gender inequalities. by her relationship to men and child rearing capacity” (Jethmalini & Prasad. These factors are valid in the abuse of Indian women. “Power in the traditional Indian context. too. After her son’s marriage. in return for the life-long economic. 440) Thus. 1995) show that even though mothers-in-law and other senior women were implicated for the abuse as the contributors of violence. and consequent perceived male entitlement to controlling the lives of women. Seeing her source of power slip away. 1995. this sacrifice leads to a mother gaining power within the family. classes. 437) not only of men but also of older women. In the Indian context. This article puts forth several psychologically based explanations below. For example. we can validly assume that any power that women have in Indian society is closely associated with and derived from the male figures in the family. 146).com by RAVI BABU BUNGA on October 31. The court cases (Jethmalini & Prasad. 2011 . The issue of possible dissatisfaction with the amount of dowry adds ammunition to a volatile situation. in dowry-related violence in India.e. Mothers-in-law are in a position to take advantage of this belief system. i. 141). 1989. physical. 1997. in return her son may consult her on allimportant issues. as well as status and power that patriarchy theoretically offers women. According to Jethmalini and Prasad (1995). When a woman becomes the mother-inlaw. p. women’s participation in the abuse arises from the interaction of “gender and life cycle-based hierarchies” (Mehrotra. Furthermore.72 TRAUMA. Within the authority structure. they remain subordinate to men and participate in ensuring the subordination of other women from the same or different households. (Fernandez. 1999). 1997. without regard for their own needs. The concept of “patriarchal bargain” (Fernandez. & ABUSE / January 2006 husband-wife and the legitimized social norms of male domination of resources. VIOLENCE. Whereas older women are subjected to the authority of men. 1995. It is important to note that all of the women involved in dowry-related violence (perpetrators and victims) are related to each other through their relationships to a man. In time. If there is resistance from the daughter-in-law. 1998). younger women come under the authority Downloaded from tva. p. a mother-in-law is not merely financially dependent on the males in the family but is also put in an emotionally insecure position. Therefore. and thus legitimatizing and perpetuating the social norms that define and maintain women’s subordinate condition. Moreover. In the Indian context. women in the Indian society base their pride on their husbands and sons and invest a great deal of time and service on husbands and children at the expense of themselves. 1997) sheds light on why women participate in the oppression of other women. PSYCHOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES The above explanations for dowry-related violence and the role of the perpetrators draw from sociocultural and feminist perspectives. Umar. sacrificing those of their own gender. is distributed by the endorsement of women’s sexual role. p. they said that women can and do abuse this power. (Fernandez. Jethmalini and Prasad (1995) said that women have the “illusion of power” because their power is gained through their relationship to men. p. young girls and women are conditioned all their lives to serve their in-laws. and emotional protection. a mother may no longer feel like she is all important in her son’s life. she is finally in a position of power after having been controlled throughout her life (Jethmalini & Prasad. To examine the psychological causes would add yet another dimension to understanding and combating this phenomenon. she tightens her grip on power by controlling the bride and the new couple’s relationship.sagepub.
1988. depends on him for her survival. rather it points to the role of socialization in teaching girls and women dysfunctional behavior.com by RAVI BABU BUNGA on October 31. and even identifies with him.Rastogi. Therefore. Flavia (1988) said that a man’s need to fit the masculine Downloaded from tva. (Kakar. Kakar (1988) provided an explanation for the low self-esteem of women in a patriarchal society. Eisikovits. especially the parents. thors stated that a woman who is traumatically attached to her abuser may feel that she loves him. He said that because of the differential treatm e n t o f s e x e s “ g i r l s a n d w o m e n in a dramatically patriarchal society will turn the aggression against themselves and transform the cultural devaluation into feelings of worthlessness and inferiority” (p. 63) Any public expression of affection is actively discouraged through oblique hints or outright shaming. women who are battered are trapped in the relationship against their best judgment or against their will. Every effort is made to hinder the development of intimacy within the couple which might exclude other members of the family. 2011 . combined with viWestern world. According to them. Enosh.. Peled. Depression. brother. These auwomen. women’s psychological makeup. . Second. attachment between the couple grows very slowly and puts the woman at risk for abuse because she has no allies within the system. is the social training of young women: Late childhood marks the beginning of an Indian girl’s deliberate training in how to be a good woman.sagepub. . 48). (p. any sign of a developing attachment and tenderness within the couple are actively discouraged by the elder family members. and it may expose them to more dangerous situations. which olence. Another cause for pathology. According to Kakar (1988). Leaving may be more dangerous than staying for the women and children. THE ROLE OF INDIVIDUAL PSYCHOPATHOLOGY The role of individual psychopathology should not be ignored in terms of its relationship to violence in families. The psychopathology of men as abusers is an important factor in the severity of abuse. To clarify: This analysis does not lay the blame for the violence on the woman. The husband and wife are often allowed to be together only for brief periods at night. and hence the conscious inculcation of culturally designated feminine roles. Fernandez (1997) said low self-esteem. and personal and situational factors contribute to their entrapment in a destructive and dysfunctional re- lationship. This section looks at women’s and men’s roles in perpetuating and continuing abuse. 51) These learned behaviors may be conceptualized as socially instigated and/or approved psychopathology because they may eventually cost the woman her life. and Winstok (2000) proposed the theory of entrapment as the cause of continuing abuse. some women who are battered are trapped in a relationship with a perpetrator who threatens to escalate the violence if the woman attempts to leave. p. . namely their investment in staying connected (Jordan. unpreusually involves a dictability. fear. Under these circumstances. according to Kakar (1988). First.. breadwinner. 2000) that separation from the abuser does not always terminate the violence. that unlike the typical domestic violence loneliness. and scenario in the shame. in which case it is likely that she will maintain the relationship. isolation. the family fears that the growing attachment between the new couple will lead the man to neglect his responsibility to the family as a dutiful son. 2000). in India stage for the creation and often a mother-in-law or sister-in-law m a i n t e n a n c e o f s y ncontributes to the dromes such as “traumatic attachment” (Peled violence perpetrated by men against et al. She learns that the “virtues” of womanhood which will take her through life are submission and docility as well as skill and grace in the various household tasks. 1997). Therly / DOWRY 73 Another reason for the abuse of the new bride stems from the collective fears of the family. and so on. guilt. and possibly some positive attributes lone man battering a of the batterer set the lone woman. Research shows (Peled et al.
In childhood a female must be subject to her father. The psychological analyses presented here demonstrate that the problems are widespread. Well-meaning parents tell the woman to try harder (Umar. pp. in schools. Women soon realize that there is no way out. 1998). brides are easily available for him. The analysis presented in this article suggests that gender-informed. (as cited in Wadley. No matter what the victim does. psychotherapeutic approaches should not be overlooked. culturally sensitive therapy ought to be available to groups of girls and women (see Rastogi & Wampler. It has included legal education. they believe that staying is safer than leaving. People might learn to spot early signs of a violent or abusive marriage. 2011 . he is likely to assume that physical violence is an acceptable way of resolving marital problems (Flavia. IMPLICATIONS FOR INTERVENTION While detailing a model of effective intervention in preventing dowry-related abuses is beyond the scope of this article. Neither can they predict what will happen when they leave the relationship. At present. build their own self-esteem. or even by an aged one. 1989).sagepub. 1989). if the husband wants to remarry. On the other hand. Similarly. support other women. 30) abuse continues. attempts at empowering women through the media. Thus. and violence (p. government policies to target gender discrimination. minimal legal or social consequences for these behaviors encourage the male perpetrator to continue his abuse (Kumari. Kumari. VIOLENCE. Men know that their wives have no other option but to stay in the relationship. 1998) to combat the creation of abusive situations. This potentially shameful contradiction between reality and role expectations may lead him to assert his “superiority” through physical power. and how to assist in intervening in such situations. 1988. and individual and relational issues should be targeted too. when repeated attempts to escape fail. most of the psychotherapy services offered are after the fact.74 TRAUMA. For example. even in her own house. Women who are battered stay in abusive relationship because their past attempts to change their environment failed. This might be offered through outreach in community settings. separate psychotherapy The theory of learned helplessness suggests that an individual will initially attempt to escape an undesirable situation. and other places where women congregate. she continues to behave Flavia (1988) said that in a passive and helpless in an oppressive manner. 160). 1988. the Downloaded from tva. The man’s assumed authority in his home and/or marriage. blaming women. to her sons. the subservient role of his wife. and seek out nonviolent solutions to family conflict. when her lord is dead. 1988. In addition. 160-161). even when an escape route is available. Furthermore. However. LEARNED HELPLESSNESS Attitudes toward women in India have been shaped by what Manu wrote 2. nothing must be done independently. p. in youth to her husband. fight against it. feminist therapy might help them examine issues related to their own family. she gives up and becomes passive. Flavia (1988) system women’s said that in an oppressive experiences cause system women’s experithem to succumb to ences cause them to sucthe abuse than fight cumb to the abuse than against it. Yet another explanation is that men experience shame on accepting dowry because this contradicts their role as the provider. to help the victim and her family deal with the trauma and the after effects of the abuse. Then later. colleges.com by RAVI BABU BUNGA on October 31. by a young woman. if a man has witnessed or been subjected to violence in his childhood.000 years ago: By a young girl. and society’s acceptance of the husband’s right to discipline his wife gives men the option to act out violently against women. a woman must never be independent. and providing resources for victims and their families (Ghadially & Kumar. & ABUSE / January 2006 stereotype and a denial of his own failures lead to displacing his problems on others. much of the work against the dowry system has targeted larger systems. Currently.
411 in the United Kingdom (Office for National Statistics.d. Almeida and Dolan-Delvecchio (1999) point out that professionals should differentiate between cultural practices and the resultant violence. When conducting psychotherapy with clients of Indian origin.Rastogi. and not all instances of domestic violence are caused by dowry. • Professionals should harness psychologically based. along with more commonly attempted legal. • Men might be offered similar group settings to discuss male privilege. While dowry is a cultural practice. and learn ways to intervene. 2005). Referrals would be available for individual of family therapy for men and women seeking further help. and gender-sensitive services to offer to groups of women and girls to help prevent dowry exchange and violence. Clinical judgment will help determine whether the therapist ought to ask outright about the role of dowry in the marriage. To combat the negative impact of dowry. the groups for men might focus on male privilege. the professional should be open to the fallout from dowry in the couple and family relationships.). and violence. AND RESEARCH • Current approaches toward the prevention of dowry exchange and violence prevention focus on legal education.sagepub. violence is not. When working with abuse and violence in the South Asian community. and creating government policies.com by RAVI BABU BUNGA on October 31. media presentations. POLICY.000 in Canada (Statistics Canada. • Professionals should be informed and vigilant to the differences between normative practices and abusive behaviors within families. These interventions ought to be widely available in the community. For example. • Professionals should assess for various genderrelated issues when working with clients of Indian origin. Downloaded from tva. couples. 713.S. • Families.7 million in the United States in the year 2000 (U. Mittal & Rastogi.053. If there were issues regarding dowry. and the “price of masculinity” (Levant & Pollack. the authors of this article would argue that not all cultural practices deserve to be condoned. Therly / DOWRY 75 groups would be available to men. 2011 . IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE. 2003). Census Bureau. These could focus on consciousness raising and psychological issues. This added information might help mental health professionals decide how to proceed with a case if it appears there was violence and abuse involved as a result of the dowry. a practice such as dowry should not be automatically accepted as is simply because it is the norm. it is important to ask questions regarding the manner in which the marriage took place and if there were family conflicts from the time of the wedding. men might support each other too in learning nonviolent ways to resolve conflict. violence and the “price of masculinity. 1995). social service. and educational approaches. Gender is a salient aspect of assessment when working with South Asians (Maker. and individuals may be referred for appropriate psychological services. 2005). shame. shame. Thus. Although not all instances of dowry lead to abuse and violence. Immigrants of Indian origin and their children are not immune to this practice either. it is essential to harness psychological interventions that are informed by culture and gender. and 1. IMPLICATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS As described earlier in this article. dowry is practiced by a majority of Indian families. This has important implications for practitioners in the United Sates and elsewhere as Asian Indians numbered 1. Furthermore. In addition. it is commonplace for these issues to continue to affect the couple and the extended family for years after the wedding. and friends to spot early signs of abuse and violence. neighbors. n.” • Outreach work in the community will help concerned family members. it is vitally important for professionals to be vigilant. culturally sensitive.
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It is through this work that he developed a strong interest in feminism. He has conducted several events and workshops for religious groups in India and published articles on spirituality and psychology. Therly / DOWRY 77 Mudita Rastogi. He received his doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Illinois School of Professional Psychology.D. She also maintains an interest in partnering with grassroots. He earned a master’s degree in pastoral counseling from Loyola University. domestic violence and trauma..Rastogi. India. Ph. and psychotherapy. Born and raised in India. Paul Therly. Chicago in 2001. cultural and gender issues. he was engaged in social work. is a postdoctoral intern at Southdown Institute. Chicago. not-for-profit organizations. her master’s degree in psychology from University of Bombay. and yoga. and pastoral work and has firsthand knowledge and experience of the oppression of women in the Indian culture. Canada. Psy. he has a deep interest in multicultural issues. as a licensed marriage and family therapist. She has more than 15 years of clinical experience in India and the United States with a highly diverse client population and is in private practice in Arlington Heights. he held the position of training director at Montfort College. cross-cultural and gender issues. She is currently associate editor for the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. Before he entered graduate school.sagepub. Illinois. is professor and a core faculty member in the clinical psychology program at Argosy UniversitySchaumburg (Chicago Northwest)—Illinois School of Professional Psychology. Aurora. education. value-based psychotherapy. 2011 .com by RAVI BABU BUNGA on October 31. and South Asian families and is editor of the book Voices of Color (2005. She has published in the areas of family and couple therapy.. Bangalore. She obtained her Ph.D. spirituality. in marriage and family therapy from Texas Tech University. Sage). Downloaded from tva.D. for 3 years and also taught master’s level students at Bangalore University. and holistic therapy. and her BA (Honors) in psychology from University of Delhi. After the completion of his doctorate. His educational background also includes the study of philosophy. Her clinical interests include couples. She frequently presents workshops nationally and internationally. families. adolescents. sociology. theology.