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Dowry System In India: Then And Now

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By Vineeta Chawla:

One of the biggest menaces of Indian society is the dowry system. This fact that it is condemned by every modern citizen of this country and yet it still flourishes at a very large scale in our society is a testimony of how deeply rooted this system is in the Indian society.

Origin of Dowry In India

Dowry (dahej) is one of the most ancient practices of India and Oxford dictionary defines it as ‘an amount of property or money brought by a bride to her husband on their marriage’. But the origins of dowry are far nobler than we imagine. Dowry was started by wealthy businessmen, kings and other influential people of the society as a means to give girls their due in the ancestral property as in those times, even till recent times, all the money and property went to the sons only. Later on, it was used to provide “seed money” or property for the establishment of a new household. Till then the amount and contents of dowry were decided solely by the parents of the bride.

But now dowry is demanded by the groom’s parents and marriage takes place only if a certain amount of dowry is paid by the bride’s parents. Today dowry is given as compensation to the groom’s parents for the amount they have spent in educating and upbringing their son. It is also considered a status symbol, especially in the high class, and generally, the items of dowry are flaunted and hyped by both parties.

Impact Of Dowry System In India

The effects of dowry system are many and varied but in almost all cases it is the girl’s side which has to face the repercussions while the boy’s side walks away from the issue unharmed, with their heads held high. When demands for dowry are not met, the bride is subjected to torture, and often even killed. Most of the dowry deaths occur when the young women, unable to bear the harassment and torture, are pushed to suicide. Most of these suicides are by hanging oneself, poison or self-immolation. Sometimes the woman is killed by setting her on fire which is known as ‘bride burning’ and is disguised as an accident to avoid criminal charges and punishment.

Bride-burning accounts for the death of at least one woman every hour in India, more than 8000 women a year, while 20 women die every day as a result of harassment over dowry – either murdered or compelled to suicide. It is also a reason why many parents don’t want to have daughters, because of the dowry they will have to shell out at her marriage, and the stress they go through due to never-ending demands from her in-laws. In fact, dowry deaths of a newly married bride are regularly in the news.

Custom Of Bride Wealth

Bride price, also known as bride wealth, is a reversal of the dowry system. It’s an amount of money or property paid by the groom or his family to the parents of a woman upon the marriage. In ancient literature, bride price has often been explained as payment made in exchange for the bride’s family’s loss of her labour and fertility within her kin group. The agreed bride price is generally intended to reflect the perceived value of the girl or young woman. This practice, though less prevalent than dowry, is still practised in some rural areas of the country. But it is even worse than dowry as this practice thinks of girls as items that can be sold or bought.

The government has taken many steps to stop the abominable practice of dowry. The Dowry Prohibition Act, passed in 1961, prohibits the request, payment or acceptance of dowry, where “dowry” is defined as a gift demanded or given as a precondition for a marriage. Asking or giving of dowry can be punished by imprisonment of up to six months or a fine of up to Rs.5000. Many anti-dowry legislation has also been made to tackle the dowry system. The media has also done its bit by showcasing the cases of dowry and its ill-effects.

Today dowry is not the innocent practice that it started out as but has turned into a social menace that cannot be reverted back to its original form; hence it must be eradicated from our society permanently.

You must be to comment.
  1. nika

    hello mam,
    thanks for a great writing on dowry system but here we can write only on dowry system,but we can’t do any thing about change in this system………we can change living style but we cant change the thought level of people.on today date..parents discriminate .between boy and girl……why i m asking y?….

  2. atul

    thank for think abouts the indian dowry system that the reality of our society

  3. prachi

    its really the reality of Indian society , which needs changes to make it more better n new way to the new thinking n generation!!!!!!!!!

  4. Shahbaz khan

    It is totally correct that dowry system of present time is wrong. In ancient time it was like a gift but now it has become a demand. The corrupt minded person do such kind of things. We should be aware about it….

  5. narendra kumar

    fact that it is condemned by every modern citizen of this country and yet it still flourishes at a very large scale in our society is a testimony of how deeply rooted this system is in the Indian society.

    Dowry (dahej) is one of the most ancient practices of India and Oxford dictionary defines it as ‘an amount of property or money brought by a bride to her husband on their marriage’. But the origins of dowry are far nobler than we imagine. Dowry was started by wealthy businessmen, kings and other influential people of the society as a means to give girls their due in the ancestral property as in those times, even till recent times, all the money and property went to the sons only. Later on it was used to provide “seed money” or property for the establishment of a new household. Till then the amount and contents of dowry were decided solely by the parents of the bride.

    But now dowry is demanded by the groom’s parents and marriage takes place only if a certain amount of dowry is paid by the bride’s parents. Today dowry is given as compensation to the groom’s parents for the amount they have spent in educating and upbringing their son. It is also considered a status symbol, especially in the high class, and generally the items of dowry are flaunted and hyped by both parties.

    The effects of dowry system are many and varied but in almost all cases it is the girl’s side which has to face the repercussions while the boy’s side walks away from the issue unharmed, with their heads held high. When demands for dowry are not met, the bride is subject to torture, and often even killed. Most of the dowry deaths occur when the young women, unable to bear the harassment and torture, commit suicide. Most

  6. priya

    hi thank you to gave such a good knowledge about dowry system in India thank you.

  7. mohamed rayyan

    please send more information

  8. ritika nagpal

    itz the reality of indian society…and u have done a vry grt job…by giving knowledge on dowry system….which can only b removed bt…by the youth

  9. veesys

    thnks for good information about dowry system,this information is very helpful for us.i think pepole know about this thing bt they cant any action.

  10. veer singh

    ver good articaly

  11. rajeswari

    thanks for lot of information told for this system

  12. Delhi Hotels

    use full info nice article 🙂

  13. kalpana

    thankyou very much about the dowry system information.wecan see to the article just some of the persons changed to the our thinkings so very important
    matter given to them .great a job

  14. kommineni

    its a good article .if seminars will be conducted and interacts with youth automatically this system is eradicated gradually.thanks for lot of information and did great job .

  15. aklshita

    good and please continue .ALL INDIA IS WITH U.We r proud of u

    1. vimal paliwal

      thankyou for this article.

  16. kanika

    dowry is a very effective way. thank u for pasting such a good coment on it

  17. sunny

    awesome information given by u mam ……… i am a big fan of yours…….. 😀

  18. vijayalakshmi

    thank you for telling the real definition of dowry and why it is started:)

  19. Saritha

    very nice . short and very sweet explanation

  20. Binny

    I understand the whole concern about the social values that a woman holds in our society and the laws which are formed in order to protect her against few cruel intentions carried out by the groom side.But Not to neglect the other side of the mirror that there are many cases where Male part of the society are suffering through the same cause of misusing THE DOWRI LAWS OF INDIA. which is falling under 498A act and considered to be a criminal case. Knowing the law that there is no penalty for the misuse of IPC 498a, and after acquittal of the accused , the courts are reluctant to entertain defamation and perjury cases against the falsely testifying the witness.There are 65,000 accusations on male portion of society per year which are a large amount by the way. This act is being misused cause of many reasons like legal extortion, adultery, Domination in which brides gets to claim the property of the groom beyond his capability ( Bride is well being and an independent woman). And there are no counter judgments in the Indian laws in favor to the groom that he can prove himself innocent. Yet his life and his parents life is at steak. By the way I am also a woman but I have seen many cases around where this act has equally caused serious amount of harms to many family….What steps do we have against these greedy bunch of people with a very low self esteem.???

  21. Sandeep.C.Rai

    nice work,hope lots of more will join yka,best of luck

  22. ashish

    really its totaly true ….today what a time .whts happening …..dowry dowry every where .i knw tht its a bad culture…again again…..going on

    1. rahul

      thnku all to sharing ur valuable points against dowery
      guys ths s d rght tym whn we hve to move on action we hve to tke the initiative
      to chnge the thngs whch cmr frm earlier

      i wnt ths chnge guys nd i m the one who stand wth all the grls whnevr its need either it is dowery system, rape etc

  23. Pranjal

    thank you for telling us the real defination. It just shows how people violate such noble causes inorder to benefit from it. Only when we think of marriage as union between two families and not as a act to earn money and benefit from it only then such pracices stop. Keeping a check is difficult hence teaching about its ill effects must take place. Whereever a show off is being made, income tax and various other departments must come into action to stop it. Only when strict laws are made and followed would the people understand the mistake they are doing.

  24. Ipsa Arora

    dowry started with a good intention but it has gradually taken a devastating turn in the society and for the society.

  25. kartik sharma………

    thanks ……thanks a lot because you shared your views on dowry system…….

  26. shanu

    yeah i totally agree..
    i jzt hope that dis article will b a revolution in awareness against dowry systm..

  27. dk acharya

    guarented female education & 100% registering the marriage within 24 hours on line or manually without any cost to the bride or groom or their family –may bring down this problem –just try….

  28. adya00

    Hey, I like the thrust of the article, but could you elaborate on how dowry started as a noble thing?

  29. padma

    if conclusion is there it will be excellent over all it is nice

  30. HARI VSRC SHARMA BE.C.ENGR.(RTD)

    ANTI DOWRY BUREAUS HAVE TOBE ESTABLISHED ACROSS INDIA IN SPECIFIC AND AROUND THE GLOBE IN GENERAL TO PUNISH THE CULPRITS BY EXPELLING THEM FROM SOCITY ACTIVITIES AND TOTALLY FREEZING THEIR ALL GOVT.DAILY BENIFITS IN NEED LIFE LONG FOREVER AS A GREAT TEACHING LESSON .

  31. Saikot

    bad effects of dowry system ..need paragraph

  32. Whatever98

    Very well written article

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