By Kate James
An ABC article discusses the ancient tradition in Indian families to provide a daughter with a dowry, while sons typically receive an inheritance. However specific circumstances in Australia make it easier for Indian men living in Australia to exploit their new partner’s family for exorbitant amounts.
Typical dowries range between $25,000 – $50,000, and can include cash, jewellery, gold and white goods. But demands can keep coming after the wedding from the husband as well as his family.
These demands might not just be for money: Kasish’s new husband wanted her to take the blame for his driving offence – an offence that occurred while she was not in the country. When she refused, he hit her for the first time.
“He hit me, he scold me, he pull my hair,” she said.
“He said: ‘Why are you not giving to me? I am your husband, you have to give to me. All [the] people are doing it’.”
Unfortunately for Kasish, divorce is frowned upon in India, and it is unlikely she will be able to marry again if she leaves her husband.
Kasish’s story is all too common according to social and legal workers, who report that dowry related abuse is on the rise. Indian men in Australia are being physically abusive to their wives if they do not comply to demands to pay more money after the wedding.
Anvi (not her real name), a social worker in Adelaide says “”More than half of [my] clients have this problem. Most of the time… the husband keeps asking for dowry, and it finally ends up in physical violence.”
It’s not just the husband who can be abuse however.
“Typically the in-laws, usually the mother-in-law, is not satisfied with what she got, after the wedding,” says Ms Kaur, social worker and director of JK Diversity Consultants Jatinder Kaur.
Ms Kaur says she has seen cases where a mother-in-law is abusive, or tells her son to be violent to his new wife.
“They will try to extort or emotionally blackmail the bride’s family. [The mother-in-law will say] ‘we will make your daughter’s life hell if you don’t give us what we want’.
So why is the problem so pervasive in Australia?
Legislation in India has outlawed the giving of dowries to avoid this kind of abuse. The measures have been only somewhat successful, with families instead referring to “gifts” and avoiding documentation.
In Australia no specific legislation exists to prevent dowries. Australian men are also in a better position to command higher dowries because of the promise they can offer of a new life in a wealthy country.
Indian men living in Australia often date Australian women, but go back home to marry, either because they wish to continue to have a connection with their culture, or because they believe that by marrying an Indian girl and receiving a dowry they can pay off their debts.
Men who have arrived as international students years ago may see marriage as a way to pay off their student debts and loans, according to psychiatrist and campaigner Dr Manjula O’Connor.
The problem of dowry abuse can be fatal. In 2014 Deepshikha Godara was stabbed to death by her husband, Sunil Beniwal due to ongoing abuse beginning with her husband’s demands for more dowry.
“The Australian experience is mirroring the experience back in India, where every year about 8,000 to 8,500 murders are being recorded,” Dr O’Connor warned.
Australian domestic violence legislation has to step up to provide women victim to dowry abuse greater protection.
To find out more about how the law in Australia can protect victims of any kind of abuse, call our office on (02) 6223 2400 to book an appointment to speak with one of our lawyers. All our lawyers have experience catering for clients of all cultural backgrounds, and have worked with clients in abusive relationships to walk away and resolve parenting and property issues.
To read the whole article, see http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-29/dowry-abuse-domestic-violence-kasish-story/8745118?pfmredir=sm_
Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Family Law.