Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Broken Mirrors: The 'Dowry Problem' in India

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Broken Mirrors: The 'Dowry Problem' in India

Article excerpt

Robin Wyatt with Nazia Masood. Broken Mirrors: The 'Dowry Problem' in India. Delhi: Sage 2010.272 pages, ISBN: 9788132105039.

Broken Mirrors, by Robin Wyatt and Nazia Masood, makes an important contribution to our understanding of Indian family relationships. Through personal interviews the authors examine 60 marriages which ended with emotional or physical violence, and sometimes death. Six cases are presented in detail, two from the side of the victimized wife, two from the husband accused of dowry demands, and two from the perspectives of both. The book is beautifully written, with the cases in different formats (diary, blog, police record, interview transcript, or private conversation) which serve to emphasize their uniqueness.

The main argument, presented very convincingly, is that excessive dowry demands were not the root cause of the marital breakups. Rather, because Indian law forbids dowry but provides no easy way to prosecute cruelty and harassment, law enforcement officers often persuade complainants to base their case on dowry and thus make conviction more likely.

Another strength of Broken Mirrors lies in its portraits of the early years of unhappy arranged marriages. The six case studies show the damage caused by husband-wife incompatibilities including large age differences, diverse family backgrounds, and conflicting sexual expectations. In addition, brides regularly face competition with their mothers-in-law over the husband's loyalty, as well as over everyday decisions which brides feel should be their own. There is enormous pressure on a bride to become pregnant, resulting in anxiety and fear if she "fails. …

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