A woman has been filmed apparently being beaten by her in-laws for giving birth to a girl. Local reports in Katalwi, Punjab, suggest that Meena Kashyap, 35, was also attacked as part of a dowry dispute.
Footage shows her cowering and screaming in pain as she is hit with hockey sticks by two men believed to be her brother-in-law and a friend of his. Her husband’s family had recently found out that she had previously made complaints about them in April saying they had treated her with violence.
Ms Kashyap is said to be in dispute over a dowry of £8,300 given to her by her in-laws but then when she gave birth to a girl her husband’s family were angered. She has been beaten a number of times, according to the Hindustan Times.
Police are bringing charges against her husband Daljit Singh, his brother Kamaljeet, and a friend identified only as Gaurav. The charges include trespass and ‘voluntarily causing hurt’. Her father said: ‘We had complained about the issue last year itself but nothing was being done regarding that. ‘They have been married for the past two years now and have a girl child. Their family asked for 700,000 rupees for dowry.’
What is a dowry?
Dowry payments are given by a bride’s family to her new husband’s relatives upon her marriage, and can include everything from money and valuables to home appliances and cars.
These payments used to be made in lieu of traditional inheritance for women, and were given to help her support herself in her new husband’s family and to give her something to live on in the event of his death.
But the payments fast became a source of income for the husband’s family, who would not only demand money at the wedding itself, but continue extorting the bride’s family afterwards – especially around the birth of a child.
The shame of living with an unmarried daughter, or having your daughter divorced, is used as leverage to convince a woman’s family to pay up.
If a bride’s family refuse to pay, or cannot afford the sum demanded, the woman is sometimes abused or even killed as a result.
This practice became so common that the practice of giving dowries was officially banned in India in 1961, but still continues today under the guise of ‘gifts’ given by one family to another.
Around 8,000 dowry deaths occur each year in India according to the country’s national crimes statistics bureau.
The inequality built into the system is also partly behind India’s high rates of infanticide and abortion of girls, leading to a gender ratio skewed toward men.
Campaigners and charity workers in the UK have been warning since at least 2014 that ‘underground’ dowry violence is taking place in this country and have urged police forces to begin gathering data on the issue.
A report that year by The Independent found that hundreds of women a year are being burnt, scalped, imprisoned or otherwise abused in their homes over financial disputes with their in-laws.