Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bangladeshi women revoke marriage vows, protesting dowry

Defiant Farzana Yasmin, 27
SALEEM SAMAD

A BANGLADESHI Muslim woman spontaneously revoked her marriage vows protesting dowry proposal, moments after she was married on an auspicious 11-11-11 day, which went unlucky for the couple.

Farzana Yasmin, 27 stole the hearts and minds of millions who read and watched the story in Bangladesh media.

Last Friday, Yasmin married Shawkat Ali Khan Hiron, 32 in a ceremony held in the morning. The groom lends his support when his relatives demanded dowry from Yasmin's father after the reception.

Braving social stigma in a Muslim conservative society, she protested and decided not to accompany her newly wedded husband to her in-laws house, as a customary. She got off the wedding car, adorned with flowers.

To make the occasion special, she distributed expensive cards, inviting friends and relatives to celebrate her wedding on the 11-11-11 lucky day.

"I cannot imagine spending my life under the same roof with a man who has voiced his support for taking dowry," the 10-minutes bride Yasmin wearing traditional golden embroidery red saree told the news portal bdnews24.com.

Offering and accepting dowries to bridegrooms is a criminal offence in Bangladesh, but is still widely practiced. Yasmin remarked with a sigh that dowries "were the cancer of society".

In the backdrop of social moral values her ‘rogue’ husband, a headmaster of a state primary school in Barguna town, in the south coastal region was an indecent proposal, she said confidently.

"The anti-dowry laws should be implemented strictly and those who demand should be given exemplary punishments," she added, stamping her foot down on the customary malpractice of the bride's family having to satisfy the material demands of the groom's side to ensure a proper marriage.

Yasmin as some say, shook the moral foundation of the society through her action, comes from an average middle-class family. The third child of a government employee and a housewife, she is a first-class graduate of social welfare from a college in the capital Dhaka.

She joined an insurance company as a junior officer while completing her master's degree and is posted at the company’s headquarters in the capital.

Several days after the incident, Yasmin who fled her village in fear of harassment of the Islamic bigots is determined to divorce her husband, with supporters and opponents of her action fiercely arguing their cases on Facebook and other social media.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes on Islamic terrorism, forced migration, good governance and elective democracy. He has recently returned from exile from Canada after return of democracy. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com