ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Dowry and Inheritance

Dowry and Inheritance WE are taken aback by the stridency of Madhu Kishwar's attack (March 18) on C S Lakshmi's comments on dowry and inheritance (January 28). One wonders if a healthy debate is not possible without it degenerating to personal attacks, Madhu Kishwar has absolutely no right to dismiss an opponent's point of view as a "confused diatribe" not fit for publication. In this context mention needs to be made also of J P Jain's letter (February 18) wherein, among other allegations, the writer casts aspersions on the veracity of the example cited by Lakshmi to highlight the evils of dowry. We would like to suggest to Jain that by refusing to accept unpalatable facts one cannot wish them away, Madhu Kishwar's arguments seeking inheritance rights for women are valid, but her attempt to justify dowry as an existing alternative in the absence of property rights for women is not. This error arises precisely because she fails to fully explore the implications of the data presented by her in her article 'Rethinking Dowry Boycott' (Manushi, Vol 48, 1988) in which she records that "the harassment of women is related to the utterly dependent and powerless position of women in our present family structure". By this Madhu Kishwar clearly recognises that violence within the family exists. That is precisely' what we would like to point out. In dealing with the culture of violence and the ideological devaluation of women in the family, the giving of dowry or the size of dowry by itself does not provide any support. On the contrary, beginning her marital life as a devalued person, she is powerless to fight other methods of devaluation. Inheritance would imply a share in the family property on the death of parents. A woman's future expectations in this regard are not likely to protect her powerless position within her conjugal home.

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