Forum on Public Policy, Summer 2007
This paper focuses on two extreme practices of violence against women that occur most commonly in northern India: son preference and dowry-related deaths. Both practices occur in the private, domestic realm and are based on customary indigenous practices allegedly built upon Hindu religious teaching. Son preference and dowry- related deaths occur at all caste, class, and economic levels and have been impossible to eradicate, despite prohibitive legislation.
Moreover, the choice of female feticide to support family planning on the basis of son preference and the alleged participation of the husband’s female relatives in the dowry-related death of his bride represent crimes against females that cannot be carried out without female cooperation. This raises the question of the extent to which women exercise agency in committing female feticide and attacking young brides versus the argument that such alleged cooperation is a function of patriarchal oppression.
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