Human Rights Badasses

Dowries, money that the bride’s family pays to the groom’s family, have already been outlawed in India. India’s problem when it comes to the mistreatment of women is not so much that it lacks the proper laws. Enforcement, however, is another story entirely. It’s against the law to dedicate your daughter as a devadasi, a sex slave to the goddess, but it still happens. It’s against the law to decide whether to abort a fetus based on the fetus’s sex, but somehow lots more female fetuses get aborted than male fetuses. (No, women’s rarity will not help them. It will increase sex slavery and the buying of foreign brides.) And so on. Not that enforcement trouble is in any way unique to India, but there’s your background information.

Pooja Chauhan’s husband and parents were (allegedly*) “physically torturing” her to get her to pay a dowry. The Times of India says it got worse when she bore a girl child. She reported her husband and his family, but nothing happened. In her desperation, she tried to set herself on fire but the police stopped her. So she cried about it. Just kidding, she’s a Badass, of course. (No offense to women who would cry about it, I sure would.) She stripped down to her underwear and paraded in the streets of the conservative neighborhood to embarrass her husband and his family. Brilliant! Of course it got people’s attention, and all the sudden the police became a little more cooperative.

Bad news: 1) Some people commented on the TOI website that even though this shouldn’t have happened to her, she was wrong to go to such extreme measures as to walk around in her underwear. Please join me in a collective exasperated eye roll. (Not that I don’t understand different standards of modesty, but seriously, even trying to immolate herself didn’t work. I think extremes were called for and people need to stop victim-blaming. Remember, women are killed over dowries sometimes.) 2) Although the BBC said police denied charging her for indecent exposure, the Times said they did (but that they would take into account her mental state). Are these the same police who ignored her plight for so long? Good job.

Back to the good news: Here’s another story about a Badass, Nisha Sharma, who didn’t put up with this dowry crap, risking shame in another way by calling off her wedding. She’s in Indian textbooks now :).

*I saw on another blog that the law under which the husband and his parents were arrested is a law that provides for the accused to be guilty until proven innocent, which is a violation of human rights. I’m not an expert on this case or Indian law, but regardless of what people do, violating human rights is not ok.


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