Authentic Freedom

I Could Scream: Examining the plight of women under Islam
Baldy had a link in the comments on Little Green Footballs to a story about a murder conviction reported by the newspapers in Bangladesh:

     The man to die is Nazrul Islam of Char Monsha village under Sadar Upazila. The prosecution alleged that Nazrul Islam after his marriage with Lyzu Begum pressed her to bring a dowry from her father. Physical torture on Lyzu became a regular feature. On July 9, 2003 Nazrul picked a quarrel with his wife as she failed to comply with his demand for dowry and beat her to death.

What appears to be the anomaly in this story is that the man was convicted.

Bangladesh is a desperately poor country. Domestic violence is so prevalent that women have resigned themselves to the grim facts of married life.

     Dowry demands and the stress and hardship they impose on many families and on new brides [are] of paramount consideration in decision-making about marriage…—a consideration that increasingly seems to dwarf all others, such as social status or the quality of the groom and his family… For most [families]… managing a daughter’s marriage negotiations is an agonizing process fraught with tension and fear. The economic burden of dowry can be high—even exorbitant—but mothers often reported feeling that dowry is necessary for their daughters’ well-being…these concerns can clearly translate into downward pressure on age at marriage, because young women’s marriageability is believed to diminish with age, not least because of concerns about “sexual purity”; mothers feared that they would have to pay higher dowry to find acceptable husbands for older daughters. Although numerous women expressed a strong desire to educate their daughters, the apparent social and, increasingly, economic imperative to marry daughters early is likely to compromise girls’ educational attainment and undermine the potential for girls’ increased education to translate into delayed marriage.

As it is in India, so in Bangladesh: very young women — girls, really — are married off to older men. In what should function as a kind of economic surety for the girls, the dowry that accompanies marriage is used by the husband and his family for their own purposes. Once used up, the girl is pressured to return to her family for further extractions of money.

     Domestic violence is used in both Bangladesh and India to extort dowry payments and other property from the families of young married women. Violence—often of escalating severity over time—may be perpetrated against women in conjunction with demands for outstanding (often unaffordable) dowry payments or demands for additional amounts. In a study in India, perceived dowry inadequacy was one of the main reasons.

So there you have it. A nicely packaged equation: poverty breeds domestic violence. The implied solution is to raise the education and income levels of the rural poor. Right?

But it’s not that simple. What actually happens is that violence rises in tandem with the rise in education, and not merely the education of women.

     Thirty-two percent of men with zero years of education and 42 percent men with one-to-five years of education reported sexual violence. Among men with six-to-10 years of education–as well as those with high-school education and higher–this figure increased to 57 percent.
A similar pattern was seen when the problem was analyzed according to income and socioeconomic standing. Those at the lowest rungs of the socio-economic ladder–migrant labor, cobblers, carpenters, and barbers–showed a sexual violence rate of 35 percent. The rate almost doubled to 61 percent among the highest income groups.*

Spreading the idea of democracy is difficult enough., but democracy and the rule of law, while necessary, are not sufficient for the experience of freedom. For authentic freedom to exist, there has to be liberty and liberty is a radical concept.

Personal liberty is the most radical concept of all.

*emphasis ours

14 thoughts on “Authentic Freedom

  1. Wow, you have to wonder about the quality of that education. Probably the real need is for education of women.

  2. Maybe it’s time to drop them a half-billion Liberty pistols with pictoral instructions on how to shoot their abusive men in their sleep.

    Imagine turning an Islamic society into a matriarchy overnight.

  3. Brian–

    The quality of Indian education is excellent. Part of the problem is that they don’t have jobs for everyone.


    Islam is bad enough. A matriarchy would be utterly scary. Without men and women to balance one another, cultures can be lethal.

    Of course, Islamic culture already is. There’s a Gordian knot to be cut here, but we have to identify which one…

  4. The word dowry is derived from the British. Shakespeare mentioned “dower” in his plays.

    The dowry system in India started after the Victorian British changed the inheritance laws and decided that the female child would not inherit the fathers wealth after his death-so the money had to be given at the time of marriage.

    Read this book if you are honest
    Dowry Murder: The Imperial Origins of a Cultural Crime
    by Veena Talwar Oldenburg

    Here is an interview with the author of the book (if you do not want to read the whole book)

  5. Do you know that Indian Legal system is worse than Taliban law ?

    Do you know that 90% of dowry suits are false ?

    Do you know that more innocent women suffer under Indian Anti-dowry law than innocent men ?

    The Media and pseudo-liberals are brainwashing the people in India.
    (More details)

  6. Sumnath wrote (quoted in italics):

    Do you know that Indian Legal system is worse than Taliban law?

    I somehow doubt that. The second-most populus society and foremost pluralistic society in the world couldn’t be anywhere near as bad as the Taliban. You live in India, right? Which part?

    Do you know that 90% of dowry suits are false?

    Well, if it were that bad, I’d think that we would have seen big changes in anti-dowery legislation, or at least lots of protests with parents and grooms–perhaps setting themselves on fire like upper-caste students at one time did to protest the ridiculously large quota systems for backward castes and scheduled tribes.

    But I will give you this: because under Indian law a complaint of harassment by the young wife is considered prima facie evidence that there is dowry harassment, there are bound to be cases of misuse.

    Do you know that more innocent women suffer under Indian Anti-dowry law than innocent men?

    Well, yes. Dowry harassment is a family affair perpetrated by the young wife’s inlaws. So if the anti-dowery laws are misused, then yes, innocent women get thrown in jail.

    Westerners–particularly Western feminists–incorrectly evaluate the harassment as a male-female power-differential between the husband and the wife, but that is not what is going on. There is a power differential, but it is not male versus female; against the daughter-in-law it’s her new family–women and all–who instigate, participate, and light the match.

    The Media and pseudo-liberals are brainwashing the people in India.

    Well, hey. The West has the same problems, too. We’re not so different after all, are we?

  7. Dymphna wrote: The quality of Indian education is excellent. Part of the problem is that they don’t have jobs for everyone.

    About not having enough jobs for everyone, the problem of unemployment is really an urban problem. You don’t find this much in rural India, where agriculture is still primarily a manual affair.

    And that’s probably a good thing, too. How would you implement a USA-style industrial economy in India and maintain a billion people on one-third the land mass of the United States?

  8. Mr KK–

    That is the beauty of an industrial economy; it doesn’t take up much room. But feeding everyone in India ia a problem: the rural areas have to mechanize…it’s all so intertwined one can only take it apart to talk about it, in reality it’s a difficult, Herculean task India has…

    What is education in rural India like?

  9. Dymphna,

    Well, an industrial economy is not without its evils, one of which is unemployment as compared with the availability of employment in an agrarian economy. There are other social ills associated with industrialization, too. Urbanization and all it entails is another problem concomitant with industrialization.

    I disagree that feeding everyone in India is a problem, except in urban areas.

    Also, Indian law prohibits people from owning the amount of land required to support industrialized agricultural enterprises like in the USA. That’s because large tracts of land were formerly owned by Maharajas, and soon after Indian independence that land was confiscated and distrubted to farmers. So I don’t think India is going to see a mechanized agricultural revolution any time soon–even though some use tractors.

    Regarding education, although I wouldn’t say that education is uniform in rural India, there is in general a culture that revers education. An engineer friend of mine, for example, is from Mathura (in Uttar Pradesh), and Mathura is for sure an agricultural area. Many people from agricultural areas who get the opportunity for advanced education.

  10. Well you could look at some of the citations egardig as to how many of the dowry death cases are false. I tis also to be remembered that in India there are men dying then women and offcourse suicide rates for men increase by 50% after marriage

Comments are closed.