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21K dowry harassment cases from 2016, Kerala considering to amend laws

- June 28, 2022

Dileep V Kumar, Thiruvananthapuram, June 28

With reporting of dowry harassment cases witnessing a staggering increase in the state, the government is planning to amend certain laws to curb the menace. As per sources, the plan is to amend the Kerala Dowry Prohibition Rules 2004, Kerala Service Rules, Kerala Registration of Marriages (Common) Rules, 2008, and others.

It is learned that the Kerala Women’s Commission had submitted a detailed proposal for the same and the government is actively considering it.

As per data tabled in the Assembly, from 2021 to June 2022 a total of 7,348 dowry harassment cases were reported. From 2016 to 2020, it was 13,678.

However, in the case of the conviction rate, it turned out to be very low. From 2021 to June 2022 the conviction rate is only six. From 2016 to 2020, it was 245.

At the same time, the state Women and Child Development Department said that the high number of cases is because of the awareness campaigns including the online complaint portal ‘Aparajitha’- a quick response mechanism for grievance redressal for harassment of women and girls.

The state last year amended the Kerala Dowry Prohibition Rules 2004 to appoint dowry prohibition officers in all districts. Rules have been amended to appoint Women and Child Development Officers at the district level as Dowry Prohibition Officers.

Earlier, such officers were confined to the regional level – Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam, and Kozhikode. The decision to appoint the officers comes in the wake of the High Court intervention after the court asks the government about the steps taken to prevent dowry-related atrocities while hearing a Public Interest Litigation.

In the wake of dowry harassment cases involving government employees, the government last year decided to strictly implement the rule insisting all its employees submit an affidavit counter-signed by their spouses and fathers-in-law stating that they have not taken or given dowry. It was directed that department heads should compile the reports and hand them over to the district dowry prohibition officer every six months. In case of filing false affidavits, legal and departmental action will be initiated against the erring officers.

Awareness campaigns were also launched at various levels.

However, despite such moves, the social menace of dowry continues and it’s against this backdrop that the Kerala Women’s Commission decided to knock on the government’s door to amend the laws to bring in stiffer punishment.