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Last Updated: Monday, 19 May, 2003, 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK
Delhi girls rebel over dowries
By Sanjeev Srivastava
BBC correspondent in Delhi

In a rare and bold gesture three middle-class Delhi girls have refused marriage in the last 10 days.

Nisha Sharma
Nisha Sharma: Other girls are following her example
The girls have also ensured the prospective bridegroom, or some other member of their in-law's family, has ended up in a city jail for demanding a dowry.

Insisting on a dowry or gifts in cash and kind is a common practice and the tradition has continued in the largely male-dominated society.

However, under Indian law, the chauvinistic custom is punishable by a jail term.


The credit for this new found boldness in Indian women goes to a 21-year-old software engineer, Nisha Sharma, who has now become a kind of a role-model for other girls.

Nisha was to get married earlier this month but with the groom's family making last-minute extravagant dowry demands she not only cancelled the marriage, but even called the police and had the bridegroom arrested.

Indian women are feeling more empowered than ever before

But the extraordinary events continued.

Normally, if a marriage is cancelled for any reason - especially when the circumstances are as dramatic as the bridegroom's party being sent away - it is always the bride's family which faces ridicule and is looked down upon.

To many Indians it is regarded as the surest way to lose family honour.

But in Nisha's case she became a celebrity overnight and an icon for many young Indians.

She has been widely reported in the national press and is being described as the modern and bold face of Indian women.

Social organisations have bestowed awards on her and media opinion polls and online surveys have shown overwhelming support for her.

In the last four days, Nisha's example has been followed by two other women, both of whom have turned their back on bridegrooms demanding dowry.

While it may still be premature to say these few incidents - so far confined to the national capital - signal a revolutionary shift in social attitudes, it is clear that things are changing.

Indian women are feeling more empowered than ever before.

The BBC's Sanjeev Srivastava
"Nisha Sharma is the new icon for young Indians

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