Following accusations at a seminar on the abuse of dowries in India that organized religions are "perpetuating" the illegal dowry system, prominent churchwomen have declared that the nation's churches have done little to put an end to the abusive practice among Christians. In their findings on the dowry system, the seminar participants declared that "organized religions are not part of the solution but part of the problem."

Many leading Christians agree.

"The message of liberation preached by Christ has been negated by the social influences here," Virginia Saldanha, secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) commission for women, told ENI. "The church here [in India] has absorbed the [dowry] culture of the society and is deep-rooted in it," she said in an interview at the CBCI secretariat in New Delhi.

Leading Christian women supported the findings of the fifth international seminar on "Dowry and Bride Burning in India," held here late in January, which condemned the dowry system, perhaps the best-known example of widespread discrimination against women here.

Female children in India are often viewed as inferior to boys. Once girls reach marriageable age, many families believe they need to pay a dowry in order to find a suitable husband for their daughters, despite a 1961 legal ban on the dowry system. Desperate to get their daughters married, parents often promise to pay a dowry that is beyond their means.

The bride's in-laws later pressure her to extract more goods, in cash and other forms, from her family. This happens even to brides who have already supplied the dowry originally promised.

Some brides commit suicide because of the constant pestering and, in some cases, physical torture by their in-laws, while ...

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