Twisting a Safenet into a Noose: Short History of Dowry | Dr. Veena Talwar Oldenburg

Dowry, as Dr Veena Talwar Oldenburg contends, began as the only feminist or woman supporting institution in a patriarchal society. In the colonial period, this practice was gradually transformed from a voluntary gift and contribution to a woman’s stridhan into an aggressive demand and bargaining chip by the groom’s family. How such a transformation came to be is strongly linked to three major factors:

I. The fundamental transformation of rights to a share in the produce of the land to outline proprietorship creating modern property rights for men and marginalized women.

2. The colonial “civilizing mission’ that alleged that female infanticide, which was prevalent, was linked to the practice of dowry and

3. The collusion among colonial officers and elite males into reconfiguring the economy and revenue collection.

Dr Veena Talwar Oldenburg will lead us through these changes to see how a safety net for women was twisted into a noose in the modern incarnation of ‘dahej’. Dr Veena Talwar Oldenburg also claims that at the time of her research, that the banning dowry was very detrimental to women since they did not get property from their fathers’ estates. This matter has now been addressed in Hindu Family Law and girls will now be considered an integral part of the Hindu family!

This opportunity to discuss dowry, which has been misunderstood by many and is now considered the right of the groom’s family to make outrageous demands and then even murder the woman who is unable to cater to their greed.

About Speaker: –

Dr Veena Talwar Oldenburg, a native of Lucknow, is a feminist historian of British Colonialism and Indian History and Culture. She taught at Sarah Lawrence College, Columbia University and was professor of History at the City University of New York. She is the author of The Making of Colonia Lucknow,( Princeton University Press, 1984; 2015;) Sham-e-Awadh: Writings on Lucknow (Penguin, 2007); a history of Gurgaon: From Mythic Village to Millennium City (Harper Collins, 2018) and her book on the history of dowry: Dowry Murder: The Imperial Origins of a Cultural Crime (NY: Oxford University Press, 2002, Penguin. 2010).Her scholarly articles include writings on the courtesans of Lucknow, Sati, Female Infanticie, and Sita’s Epic journey.

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