Dowry is a system in which the bride’s family gives the groom, his parents, and relatives durable items, cash, and real or moveable property as a condition of the marriage. It is in the nature of the payment in cash or gifts which includes cash, jewelleries, electrical appliances, furniture, crockery, vehicles, etc. It is referred to as dahej in Arabic and Aaunpot in eastern parts of India. The bride’s family may face significant financial hardship as a result of the dowry system. It results in violence against women, emotional abuse, and sometimes death.
Dowry is a social evil that has resulted in unspeakable tortures and atrocities against women, as well as polluting the Indian marriage system. Dowry is a monetary or in-kind gift given to a bride’s in-laws at the time of her marriage. Today, the government has passed a number of laws and reforms aimed at not just abolishing the dowry system, but also enhancing the position of women and girls through a variety of initiatives.
According to article 3 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, penalty for giving or taking dowry doesn’t apply to presents given at the time of wedding when no demand for them has been made. According to section 498A of IPC, groom and his family is automatically arrested if bride complains of dowry harassment but in 2014, Supreme Court ruled that arrests cannot be made without magistrate’s approval. However, owing to the social nature of this problem, the legislation has failed to produce the desired results in our society.
Appealing to people’s social and moral consciousness, giving education and economic freedom for women, and effectively enforcing legislation against the dowry system can all assist to solve this problem.
Causes of Dowry
- Economic factors
These include inheritance rules and the financial condition of the bride. Under the Hindu Succession Act of 1956, India granted daughters and sons equal legal standing. Even so, dowry is still a practise in which a daughter is handed parental property when she marries. Dowry provided economic and financial security to married women. Dowry has become a significant financial burden for certain families, and it has grown in recent years.
- Social Factors
In India, dowry is influenced by the structure and kinship of the marriage. The patrilocal system governs marriage. Due to the seclusion of the bride’s family after marriage, this supports dowry. Women’s education, money, and health are all important factors in determining how much dowry is paid and how much authority a woman has after marriage.
- Religious Factors
Islam classifies dowry in two ways:
- Some essential articles for the outfit of the bride.
- Valuable goods, clothes, jewellery, amount of money for the groom’s family, etc.
Types of Dowry Crimes
- Cruelty: It can be in the form of verbal attacks, beating or harassment to force the woman or her family for dowry. In many cases, it leads to force the woman to commit suicide.
- Domestic violence
- Abetment to suicide: It includes all acts and attempts to advice, encourage or assist in committing suicide. It causes emotional trauma, depression and suicide.
- Dowry murder
Laws against Dowry
Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
The legislation provides penalty if any person gives or takes dowry. Punishment could be imprisonment for minimum 5 years and fine of more than 15000 rupees. The burden of proving that an offence was not committed lies on the person charged and not on the victim or her family.
Criminal Statutes- Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and Evidence Act
Punishment was the imprisonment for minimum 7 years and maximum for life. If the death of a woman is caused by burns or injury within 7 years of marriage, and if there’s any evidence that she was subjected to cruelty by her husband or his family, then the husband or the relatives shall be deemed to cause her death.
Impact of Dowry System
- Gender Discrimination: Due to the dowry system, women are frequently treated as liabilities and are generally subjected to subordination and second-class treatment in terms of education and other amenities.
- Having an Impact on Women’s Careers: The greater background for the practise of dowry is women’s underrepresentation in the workforce and, as a result, their lack of financial independence. The poorer sectors of society who send their daughters out to work to help them save money for her dowry. While middle and upper-class families send their daughters to school, they do not prioritise job opportunities.
- Many Women Remain Single: Despite being educated and professionally capable, an untold number of females in the country remain unmarried indefinitely because their parents are unable to meet the demand for a pre-marriage dowry.
- Objectification of Women: Today’s dowry is more like a financial investment by the bride’s family in order to gain access to influential connections and money-making opportunities. This reduces women to nothing more than commodities.
- Crime Against Women: The dowry system has been linked to a variety of crimes against women, ranging from emotional abuse and injury to death.
- Recognizing the Limitations of Political Solutions to Social Issues: No law can be implemented without the people’s full cooperation. Enacting a law, without a doubt, establishes a pattern of behaviour, engages social conscience, and aids social reformers in their efforts to repeal it. However, social evils such as dowry cannot be eradicated until the principle behind the law is carried much farther by the people.
- Educating Girls: One of the most potent and precious gifts that parents can provide to their daughters is education and freedom. This will help her become financially stable and a contributing part of the family, earning her respect and proper family standing. As a result, the best dowry any father can ever give their daughter is a good education and encouragement to pursue a career of her choosing.
- Creating a Social Stigma Around Dowry: Accepting dowry should be created a social stigma that should be addressed throughout generations. It is necessary to raise public awareness about the negative effects of the dowry system in order to achieve this. o The Union and State governments must take effective initiatives to increase ‘anti-dowry literacy’ among people on a ‘continuous’ basis through Lok Adalat, radio broadcasts, television, and newspapers. Youths are the sole hope for properly combating the dowry system’s threat. To broaden their minds and broaden their outlook, they must be taught moral value-based education.
- Multi Stakeholder Approach: Dowry is not a one-size-fits-all problem, thus society should make every effort to achieve gender balance. To address gender disparity, states should look at gender-disaggregated statistics across the life cycle — birth, early childhood, education, nutrition, livelihood, healthcare access, and so on. More childcare and safe public transportation are needed, as well as a reduction in employment discrimination and the creation of affirming workplace settings. Men and women should share domestic duties and obligations at home.
Dowry is not only illegal, but it is also unethical. As a result, society’s conscience must be completely aroused to the dowry system’s faults, such that the demand for dowry results in a “loss of face” in society for those who demand it.
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