The Kerala Mahila Samkhya Society (KMSS), a non-profit organisation, will soon launch a “match making” website to facilitate dowry-free marriages among Malayalees.

The organisation is tasked with executing various women and child empowerment programmes of the Union Ministry of Human Resources Development in Kerala.

The society’s director, Dr. Seema Bhaskar, says a considerable number of young Keralite men and women, many of them well placed professionals, have already registered themselves with the society’s anti-dowry campaign website, www.dowryfreemarriage.com.

She says the website is a precursor to the proposed matchmaking forum where young men and women will be able to choose their life partners independently and without being fettered by the demand for dowry.

In the past one year, dowry harassment has driven nearly 150 women from their husband’s homes to seek refuge in the “short stay” residence run by the KMMS in Thiruvananthapuram district alone.

There has been not less than two dowry related murders in the district. Possibly, only a fraction of the actual number of dowry harassment cases is reported. Many victims and their families seem to suffer their plight in silence.

In contrast to the capital district, dowry harassment is relatively less among the tribal communities in Idukki because their tradition frowns upon the practice, says Dr. Seema.

In Nilambur and Tanur in Malappuram district, the KMMS along with the local panchayat and few religious organisations have checked the practice of “Mysore marriages” wherein rich and older married men from neighbouring Karnataka married young women from poor families in Kerala and deserted them after a brief period of cohabitation.

According to police, there has been a considerable increase in dowry harassment cases (from 4007 in 2009 to 4,797 in 2010) reported in Kerala. The number till August this year is 3,627. The highest number of cases was reported from Malappuram and Kollam districts.

According to Praveena Kodoth, Associate Professor, Centre for Development Studies, who is currently researching on the Political Economy of Marriage in 20th Century Kerala, the important thing is to “motivate women to see other opportunities and widen their boundaries of choice”. Other measures, though welcome, is akin to “treating cancer with band-aid”.