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Last Updated: Friday, 28 November, 2003, 14:57 GMT
Indians rally against dowries

By Charles Haviland
BBC correspondent in Bangalore

Thousands of people in the southern Indian city of Bangalore have staged a march and rally against the system of dowry.

The women protesters were joined by many men
Female and male students from across the city marched through the streets, yelling "Down, Down, Dowry", and holding starkly worded banners - "Brides are not for Burning", "Real Men Don't Demand Dowry", and "Dowry Causes Women's Deaths".

On a truck, a mock-up of a bride being beaten was staged.

Dowry - the giving of money and goods by a bride's family to that of the groom - has been illegal in India for more than 40 years, but on the ground it continues.

The organisers of the rally - the Karnataka State Women's Commission (KSWC) - say that dowry-related murders and violence are continuing to be perpetrated against women unabated.

Burned alive

One woman told the BBC that after 10 years of marriage, her husband's family asked for 150,000 rupees ($3,000) extra in dowry. The reason - she had two daughters but no son.

She says that when her family did not pay up, her husband and in-laws set upon her two months ago and tried to burn her.

Philomena Peres
Philomena Peres says brides' families are afraid to speak out
"They poured kerosene over me and lit a match. When I screamed, my neighbours rescued me."

The chairperson of KSWC, Philomena Peres, said that despite Bangalore's reputation as India's information technology capital, many women were still badly treated.

According to her, there are still six to eight dowry-related deaths in the city every day.

"The woman is on the market - the man is at the auction block," she said.

"Whichever brings the higher sum, he goes for."

She said brides' families were afraid to speak out because both giving and taking dowry is punishable; the law should be adjusted, she added.

Changing attitudes

But Ms Peres feels young people's attitudes are bringing change.

There needs to be more awareness and education
Anand Sankar, protester
The students present at the rally will tomorrow face the world and get married, she said.

"They are the ones who should say 'No, no and no - this is enough."

One of the large numbers of male students present, Anand Sankar, said he felt taking dowry was wrong and he would not do it.

"The man is supposed to support the woman, not the woman the man," he said.

He said young people nowadays were earning more money and had an improving lifestyle.

"So I think dowry is declining - but there needs to be more awareness and education," he said.

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