People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 27

July 04, 2010


CPI(M) Holds Anti-Dowry Convention
Fighting Neo-Liberal Policies That Strengthen Dowry Evil

U Vasuki

DOCUMENTS of the successive CPI(M) congresses have been dealing with various forms of women’s oppression, asking the party cadres to take up these issues from their respective platforms. It is true that bourgeois parties occasionally intervene in such issues, but they do so with an eye on votes. But the party programme, which is the basic document of the party, clearly explains the link between gender issues and the building of a People’s Democratic Front. Struggle against social oppression, of which women’s oppression is a component, is an important dimension of the class struggle. The Tamilnadu state committee of the CPI(M) has been striving to implement this understanding to the extent possible. It, for instance, organised regional conventions against female foeticide in Salem and against dowry in Coimbatore. On June 20, the party organised a conference in Nagarcoil to raise its voice against the dowry menace. (See People’s Democracy, June 27 issue.) Earlier, a survey was done among a cross-section of the young men and women and among the parents who have married off their boy or girl within the last five years. This was done among 526 persons in Kanyakumari, Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Virudhunagar districts.

The survey results, presented by Balasubramaniam, secretary of the CPI(M)’s Virudhunagar district committee, clearly brought out clear that dowry exists in all castes and income groups. Education has not eradicated this evil. Rather it has aggravated it. A lecturer in Tirunelveli said that he took dowry for his marriage and he was willing to give it during his daughter’s wedding since he believes that it is part of Indian culture(!). A few youngsters said they needed it since they have to feed their brides for the whole life. This trivialises the value of women and assumes that they are only a liability. When asked about ostentatious marriages, quite a few said that they are for it since it has to be a reflection of their economic status and that they are not bothered about the impact it creates at a larger level. This indicates that the social impact of globalisation is no less dangerous than its economic impact!

Subhashini Ali, member of the CPI(M) Central Committee, while inaugurating the convention, dealt with different dimensions of dowry. She warned that we often see only the big picture --- feudalism, capitalism, imperialism --- but fail to see the smaller picture which is caste, dowry, foeticide, price rise or the linkage between them. Some thought that capitalism would make the byproducts of the previous feudal society, like dowry, disappear. It did not happen; on the other hand, capitalism has reinvented it. She quoted the 1961 census figures which showed that  60 per cent of the population did not take dowry. But 40 years later we find that dowry has broadened its tentacles. The consumerist culture, inculcated by multinational companies, nurtures the discrimination against women so that the market for their products grows through the use of dowry as an avenue. She said the fight against patriarchy and globalization has to go hand in hand. Noor Mohammed, member of the CPI(M) state secretariat, translated her speech into Tamil.

The presidium consisted of state committee members Suganthi, Palani and Kanagaraj and district committee member Leema Rose, MLA. Kanyakumari district secretary Murugesan welcomed the gathering. State committee member Karumalaiyan proposed the vote of thanks. There was sharing of survey experiences from all the four districts. A few victims of dowry narrated their problems and also told how the AIDWA and the CPI(M) were helping them. State committee member Mallika moved a resolution. While delivering the concluding address, Central Committee member U Vasuki explained the demands the conference had decided to take up. The one day convention no doubt inspired the participants to strengthen the struggle against women’s oppression.