Dowry abuse, while illegalized along with the dowry practice five decades ago in India, is a form of financial domestic violence by husbands demanding additional money and goods from the families of their brides after being initially compensated. Financial DV in these situations can often escalate to violence, as reports coming in from the Subcontinent show that emotional and physical torture put on the families of brides led to at least 8,391 cases of dowry-related suicides and murders and 90,000 incidences of cruelty and abuse towards women by their husbands and husbands’ families in 2010, according to India’s National Crime Records Bureau.
This is a low estimate for a widespread millennia-old cultural tradition that can include kidnapping and torture, but nevertheless this particular form of violence against women is getting attention from – of all places – a matrimonial website, Shaadi.com.
Shaadi.com has conceived of a game on its website that targets “the menace of dowry” in the style of the popular game “Angry Birds”. To play the game “Angry Brides”, users must try to hit grooms demanding dowry with shoes, tomatoes, and frying pans to gain points in an Anti-Dowry Fund. The Anti-Dowry Fund is a scoring system posted on Facebook and does not contribute any actual money, but according to the Shaadi.com head of online marketing, more than 270,000 people have liked the app. A caption on the game reads: “A woman will give you strength, care and all the love you need… NOT dowry!”
This marketing technique for Shaadi.com has already found its skeptics in the crowd who claim the app is not actually solving any dowry problem and may in fact be trivializing it. Whether or not one feels that cynicism is warranted here, what we can see is that “Angry Brides” has gained the attention of no fewer than six prominent media publications worldwide, including publications in the West where dowry abuse may not have ever been heard of or properly acknowledged. Through an easily accessible and popular online game, we may have discovered the unexpected roots of activism and meaningful inspiration for action against gender-based violence.
Bringing awareness and information to the public about violence against women will always be a worthy cause, by design of marketing professionals or grassroots volunteer organizations. A silver lining may exist in the most unlikely of places, but we know that it can always be found.