Video Volunteers’ Impact: Perpetrators of dowry death brought to justice

Savitri, 20, was married for just over a year, when her parents brought her battered body home, in the village of Kursi Narayanpur, Bihar. She was sacrificed for the greed of dowry by her husband and in-laws. During the last scuffle of her life, her in-laws along with her husband had broken her neck and had hit her on her chest, which was swollen till her death, three days later.

Her death shattered her parents, but the police officer at the station refused to take the complaint. “Our daughter had suffered domestic violence at the hands of her husband, mother-in-law and his sister but we would got them to compromise and stay together,” recalled a broken Brahmadev Das, father of the bride as he spoke to Navita Devi, Community Correspondent, Bihar. The patriarchal mindset drove Savitri towards her imminent death. The parents perhaps forced Savitri to sustain the abusive marriage because of the prevalent patriarchal mentality of the society and the burden of family’s pride that rests upon a girl child.

Every six hours, a young married woman is found beaten to death, burnt or driven to suicide – National Crime Records Bureau

When the distraught family approached the police to lodge a ‘Domestic Incident Report’ under Domestic Violence Act 2005, the police refused to lodge the complaint, citing no reason at all. An analysis’s insights reveal that when women or women’s family try to file first information reports (FIRs) they are often told that it is a private matter and their injuries are dismissed as minor.

This incident is not an isolated occurrence. Studying the percentage gap between the figures of National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3) and National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in Bihar, half of domestic violence cases (58%) reported in surveys are not reported to the police. While the state would go to the extent of banning alcohol ‘to save millions of households where women are subjected to domestic violence’, the state has overlooked the need to enforce more stringent laws to protect a woman’s right to file a case.

The perpetrators of the crime roamed free, while Savitri’s parents yearned for their dead child. However, Navita was determined not to let Savitri’s death be just a number. Navita made a video on the issue and screened it in the community, speaking of injustice meted to Savitri. Armed with the video report, Namita strode to the police station along with the deceased family and other members of the community. She held a screening there too, followed by a discussion.

The police finally promised action and arrested the accused. While the accused have been punished, the family only has one request, “My daughter’s murderers shouldn’t get a bail.”

While the Indian judicial system and the protection officers (police) have put laws like Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act in place, the paucity of basic services and infrastructure and moreover the patriarchal mentality of the officers themselves are proving to be hindrances in executing this legal provision.

This video was made by Navita Devi, a Video Volunteers Community Correspondent.

Community Correspondents come from marginalised communities in India and produce videos on unreported stories. These stories are ’news by those who live it.’  they give the hyperlocal context to global human rights and development challenges. See more such videos at www.videovolunteers.org. Take action for a more just global media by sharing their videos and joining in their call for change.

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