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People Top 5
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- June 23, 2003
- Vol. 59
- No. 24
The Bride Says No
Nisha Sharma Stops Her Wedding—and Becomes a Symbol—over a $25,000 Dowry
She didn't wait for an answer. Instead, the software engineering student reached for her phone and called the police. The outcome: Her intended, Munish Dalal, 24, has been arrested for demanding a dowry (he denies the charges, which carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison), and Sharma has become an instant heroine to women all over India. "This one protest," says Jyotsna Chatterji, director of the Delhi-based Joint Women's Program advocacy group, "has given other women the courage to come out and say dowries are evil."
Although dowries were officially outlawed in the country in 1961, payments to the groom remain a constant, not to mention costly, part of almost every Indian wedding. Indeed, Sharma's parents, who had placed a newspaper ad seeking a husband for their daughter (also a common practice), had already promised Dalal's family more than $20,000 in merchandise, including a luxury car, two air conditioners, a pair of washing machines and a stereo. But the cash demand was an epiphany of sorts for Sharma. Though her fame is bringing her marriage proposals from all over India and beyond, she's in no hurry to accept them—and a dowry, she says, is out of the question. "My message to all young girls," she says, "is 'Don't give them a penny.' "
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