Amanpreet Kaur (name changed) had a lavish and big fat Indian wedding.
Her seven-day wedding celebrations were carried out in accordance with Sikh Tradition which had special henna and sangeet ceremonies and revelries lasting days to celebrate her communion with an Indian-origin man from Australia who had boasted of his Permanent Residency Visa status before her parents.
Amanpreet’s family spent over a $100,000 on the wedding and provided lavish gifts for the groom and his family. This included 22-carat gold jewellery, Rs 8 lakh cash and furniture for the groom’s family back in India.
"They had sent us an entire list of gifts they wanted. It specified what was to be given to the groom's parents, his sister and her husband and child. They demanded a gold chain for my groom's niece," Amanpreet told SBS Hindi.
But it soon became clear that these weren't enough. Mental torture, abusive and sarcastic comments, soon began.
"They were never satisfied. Their demands never stopped. My mother-in-law once told me looking at a fancy car that her son could have put his hand on any car and he would have got it as families were keen to marry their daughters to him. She never forgot to remind me how meager my family had spent on them," Amanpreet recalled.
Amanpreet dreamt that this would stop once she was far away from his family in Punjab and was in Australia with her husband.
But her dreams of a happy married life were shattered when her husband started abusing her and physically hitting her.
Her three years of marriage was a long nightmare as she faced violent attacks from her husband when his demands for more money weren’t met.
Amanpreet, currently separated from her husband, now lives in a safehouse in Melbourne.
Help has finally arrived for the victims of dowry abuse in Victoria. The Royal Commission into Family Violence has recommended that within 12 months the Victorian Government should include dowry-related abuse within the ambit of family violence.
The Victorian Government has agreed to implement all recommendations of the 1900-page report.
— Daniel Andrews (@DanielAndrewsMP) March 30, 2016
Manjula O’Connor, Director of the Australasian Centre for Human Rights and Health who has campaigned for this cause since November 2012, said, ‘this is a landmark development as this law in Australia will have an impact on India. Parents in India will know that dowry has been outlawed in Australia.”
O’connor’s Centre has dealt with over a thousand cases of domestic violence in the last few years. “And I can say that 50% of the domestic violence cases that I have come across in the last 12 months are related to dowry,” she asserts.
She points out that women in distress who have been victims of domestic violence and have sought her help, have mostly approached her when the issue reaches a head and they have no place to go.
In the last 12 months, a third of the women who have come to her have been suicidal. One of those 6 women have attempted suicide and so far there have been 2 dowry-related deaths in Victoria.
She points to the case of Shikha Godara, who was murdered by her husband in December 2014.
Her husband, Sunil Beniwal, left their 4-year-old crying by his mother’s dead body before he rammed his car into a truck, killing himself.
“Shikha’s father later told me that it was a dowry-related murder,” O’Connor says.
O’Connor who is a psychiatrist herself says that these recommendations will give clarity to authorities and stakeholders as to how to deal with dowry-related domestic violence.
Amanpreet and Shikha are two examples of how dowry-related violence is a reality in Australia today.
“Often these victims who come as brides to Australia from India are cheated by their husbands and in-laws. Their education, their social-status, their employment details are either false or exaggerated. One victim told me that her husband claimed to her that he was a businessman, when infact he was driving a taxi here. Another victim shared how her husband had lied to her about his educational qualifications. She herself was an IT Engineer from a reputable institution in India and was disappointed that her husband was nothing what he claimed,” O’Connor says.
She also told SBS Hindi how several Indian grooms in the community had exaggerated their social status and income in Australia as a bargaining tool to extract money from the girl’s family.
“One mother-in-law told the girl that her son is a citizen of Australia so he can get anything he wants and how little she had brought for the family.”
Have you been a victim of dowry-related harassment, torture or violence? Are you being pressurised to provide dowry? Please write to us at Mosiqi.Acharya@sbs.com.au to share it.
For help or information regarding domestic violence, call the Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800 737 732, or visit 1800respect.org.au
Lifeline: 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au
White Ribbon www.whiteribbon.org.au