Dowry harassment in Kerala: Husband assaults newlywed woman barely a week after wedding

Woman‘s parents accuse police of indifference and inaction in dowry harassment case. Attempt to murder charges invoked only after protests.

BySouth First Desk

Published May 15, 2024 | 11:16 AMUpdatedMay 15, 2024 | 8:07 PM

Harassment

In Kerala’s Kozhikode, a fresh case of dowry harassment has come to light. A newlywed woman from Pantheeramkavu was subjected to mental and physical harassment by her husband in demand of more dowry.

The harrowing ordeal unfolded on the sixth day after their marriage, highlighting the persistence of dowry-related abuse in society.

The bride had alleged that her husband brutally assaulted and attempted to kill her over dowry, barely a week after their wedding on 5 May.

The accused husband, Rahul P Gopal is still at large. A lookout notice has been issued against Rahul.

Meanwhile, her in-laws on Wednesday, 15 May, denied the dowry allegations.

The groom’s mother claimed her daughter-in-law was refusing to stay in the matrimonial home and that led to an argument and subsequent fight between the couple.

“We never demanded dowry as we do not require it,” the woman told TV channels.

Meanwhile, the Kerala Women’s Commission (KWC) slammed the police for its stand.

Related: Young doctor’s death over alleged dowry demand sparks debate in Kerala

Inaction from police

The incident came to light, when the woman’s family visited her, and noticed bruises on her face. However, the victim at first was reluctant to share with her parents, upon continuous persistence from the family, she revealed the ordeal to her family.

The woman’s father speaking to the media said that, despite the victim’s plea for help, there was alleged laxity from the Pantheeramkavu Police in registering the case promptly.

He added, that the police were not enthusiastic to register his complaint, and mocked him.

The father further referring to dowry harassment victims who lost their lives said, “I don’t want my daughter’s fate to be like that of Vismaya and Uthara. I approached the police with that intention. But they mocked me. They told me that the Vismaya case was fabricated by the media.”

It is alleged that the police initially charged Rahul under bailable sections of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act.

However, following public outcry and protests, authorities finally registered a case against the husband for attempted murder.

The woman’s father claimed he had lost faith in Pantheeramkavu Police, where the groom’s family lives, to carry out a proper probe. to properly investigate the case, as they want this case to be settled.

He demanded that the case be transferred to Ernakulam district and demanded stringent punishment for the accused groom.

Pantheeramkavu Station House Officer (SHO) AS Sarin has been suspended due to grave dereliction of duty. The order was issued on Wednesday.

An investigation into allegations against the officer found that he neglected the petition filed by the victim, failing to register a case and delaying the arrest of the suspect.

KHRC registers suo motu case

Following the media reports on Tuesday, the Kerala Human Rights Commission has also registered a suo motu case.

The Human Rights Commission also directed the Kozhikode City Police Commissioner to conduct an inquiry on the alleged laxity of the local police in registering the case. The commission is expected to consider the case in its sitting at Kozhikode in June.

At the same time Minister Veena George, who handles the women & child development portfolio, said that legal assistance will be provided to the woman and a direction has been given to the Women and Child Development Department Director to conduct an inquiry.

Terming the assault on the newly married woman as extremely cruel and stating that it shocked the conscience, the Minister had said strong legal action would be taken to prevent people from perpetrating such crimes and recommended that society unite against social evils such as dowry and domestic violence.

Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly V D Satheesan had criticised the police inaction in the case, and asked whether it stands with the victim or the perpetrators.

Also Read: Young doctor’s death over alleged dowry demand sparks debate in Kerala

KWC slams police

KWC chairperson P Satheedevi said police officers who think that husbands have a right to do bodily harm to their wives “are an insult to the force” and emphasised the need for gender sensitisation training of Kerala police personnel.

She told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram that the KWC received a complaint on behalf of the victim and immediately the SHO of the Pantheerankavu police station, within whose jurisdiction the groom’s family resides, was called to find out the details.

“The complaint we got contained serious allegations of severe cruelty against the woman at her matrimonial home and that she was hospitalised in connection with that. However, when she went to the police station, her claims were not taken seriously.

“Instead, what I came to understand is that the police advocated that the woman settle the matter and continue to live with her husband despite facing such cruelty,” Satheedevi said.

Slamming the stand taken by the police in the matter, the KWC chairperson said, “Police officers who think that husbands have a right to do bodily harm to their wives are an insult to the force.”

She said she had come to know through news reports that the investigating officer and his team had been replaced with other officers and termed it a welcome move.

Satheedevi also called for a change in the societal mindset which leads to the dowry-related harassment of women, especially those who are well-educated.

She said in recent times there have been several instances where well-educated women have undergone dowry-related harassment both before and post-marriage.

“There are still people who see women as commodities and marriages as business transactions. This needs to change. For that the relevant laws and the rules need to be amended,” she said.

(Edited by Sumavarsha Kandula, with inputs from PTI and Dileep V Kumar)