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Of dowry, divorce and desertion: Women victims of dowry abuse speak out

Do we need a dowry law in Australia? Source: SBS

Ritu, Priya and Kamal* are three of many Indian-origin women living in Australia who claim to have suffered dowry-related abuse, resulting in what they describe as personal and psychological trauma due to continuous monetary demands.

Ritu*claims her three and a half years of marriage had been littered with severe violence and escalating demands for money and property.

“At the time of marriage it was decided that we would pay them Rs 20 lakh ($40,000 AUD), but immediately after everything had been fixed up, even the [marriage] date had been fixed, they increased their demand to Rs 30 lakh ($60,000 AUD).”

“So we even gave that amount. But when I went to my husband’s house, his family literally said, 'she’s come from a very poor household. She’s brought nothing with her'.”

Ritu claims things got worse for her after she and her husband moved to Australia with their child.

“After 7-8 eight months, he really bashed me up terribly one day. I was pregnant again at the time, and I ended up having a miscarriage. At that moment I felt horrible, I felt like I had lost everything,” she says in a quivering voice.

EXCLUSIVE: SBS PUNJABI INVESTIGATES MISUSE OF INDIA'S ANTI-DOWRY LAW

Although she has been successful in gaining her permanent residency here, she continues to be involved in multiple legal battles with her husband and his family, in Australia as well as India. 

LISTEN TO HER FULL STORY HERE:

"It all started on our wedding day," recalls Priya* who in keeping with the custom had met her husband through an arranged marriage in Punjab.

“It was a very lavish affair," claims Priya.

"I clearly remember they had demanded Rs 30 lakh ($60,000 AUD) as dowry from my family, something they later denied and said it was the mediator who had asked for the money.”

“My parents, however, went ahead with my marriage. They were a rich family and I was from a middle-class family and today when I look back, I feel, maybe this was my fault that I was poor?” says Priya who now says her family should have called off their marriage immediately when the dowry demands were made.

Priya claims that her husband’s family continued to make subsequent demands for dowry even after the marriage.

“They told me that we can’t support you..go ask for money from your parents.”

“Agreed, that I come from modest means, but even they provided me with a far better life. At least there, I wasn’t suffering or starving,” says Priya.

Now, belittled, heartbroken and deserted in Australia after just two years of marriage, she is determined to end the "sham of a marriage," she describes as "mental and physical hell."

LISTEN TO HER FULL STORY HERE:

Kamal* entered into an arranged marriage in India, to a man already settled in Australia. She claims that the “alliance” came with a hefty price tag like, she says, she has seen many other families using Indian brides as cash cows.

“They demanded a cash payment of around 26- 27 lakh (approximately $54,000) Indian rupees from my parents. It was very hard for my parents to arrange all of this and hand over to them.”

“Is this even fair that a girl’s worth is arrived at by weighing her against cash?”

Kamal alleges the mistreatment started as soon as the cash was transferred to her husband’s bank account after the marriage.

“After I got married, no one even spoke to me. I would sit alone and cry for hours together and no one would even notice.”

“They said, our boy has made a mistake in marrying you – he loved someone else, so now we will make that happen.”

She now wants other women to learn from her experience.

“You will all get married and enter into a relationship in the future. If that foundation of that relationship is based on money, then please don’t accept that marriage proposal,” cautions Kamal.

LISTEN TO HER FULL STORY HERE:

* Not their real names 

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