It is a woman who endures and braves unbearable agony; it is a woman who sacrifices her dignity, her honor and her glory for those around her who ceaselessly disregard her. It is time we understand that since day one, she’s already had everything she needs within herself; it is the world that convinced her she did not.
With trafficking, female feticide & infanticide, physical abuse and eve teasing around we often forget about another pervasive crime that is widely prevalent but frequently ignored, that is dowry harassment which at times leads to dowry deaths.
What is dowry? According to me, it is the societal perception of a woman being less valuable or less constructive than her male counterpart that defines a woman’s place in our patriarchal society. This results in “Zero-political Status” and, denial of basic civil rights such as education and employment in the fairly conservative strata of our society. Dowry, according to me, is a clear assurance of the fact that our gender determines our worth or significance. Since worth is distributed unequally among genders at birth, shortage of worth among females can be balanced by material additives- that is dowry. The roots of this worth deficiency of women are so deep-rooted that even the brides who earn more than their husbands are made to feel an obligation to supply dowry goods and services along after their marriage just as are the women who earn nothing. On the other side, a bride from a fairly financially unstable family, who is also dependent on her parents, goes on to become a burden, as the pressure of the payment of dowry solely falls on the shoulders of her father.
But has dowry always existed? There is a widely understood misconception that dowry has historically been a huge part of our culture and tradition, however let me remind you that in ancient Hindu marriage traditions it was always a “Swayamvara” that was conducted and not a “Swayamavadhu”, where the bride chose a worthy husband and not the groom, where the groom had to prove himself like how in Ramayana, lord Ram had to prove himself by lifting Shiva’s bow and how in Mahabharata, Arjuna had to hit the eye of the fish. So, people involved in either giving or taking dowry and blaming it on their belief on “so called” historical customs should observe the true value that has been given to women in our ancient scriptures where Saraswati is the Goddess of Knowledge, Lakshmi is the Goddess of Wealth and Parvati is the Goddess of divine strength and power.
A practice that was once started in medieval India where the father provided certain amounts of gifts for the daughter to live a stable married life has now become something ugly where it is the demand of cash or gifts such as cars, property, jewelry, furniture etc. by the groom’s family as a pre-condition to marriage. However, marriage known as an affair of understanding and companionship usually turns into a horrifying nightmare for the bride. In many cases, the bride has to go through an immense amount of physical and mental torture when the demands mentioned in the dowry are not met or are partially met by the bride’s family. Young women are harassed and tortured by their husbands and in-laws, which in some cases unfortunately leads to their death by suicide, murder or even by bride-burning where bride burning is often disguised as an accident or a suicide attempt.
The government has enacted some laws against dowry such as the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 and the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence act of 2005.However, as in most of the cases, the judicial system of India raises laws that are not executed properly and prove to be completely ineffective and inefficient. These laws are largely criticized for being misused. According to the National Crime Records Bureau in 2012, nearly 200,000 people were arrested in crimes related to dowry, however only 15% of the accused were convicted.
I also believe these laws have not been administered and implemented properly. This can be observed in the Table below:
No. Of Dowry Deaths in 2013 and 2014 –
|CASES SENT FOR TRIAL ( includes cases from previous years) :||7,013||7,653|
|CASES IN WHICH TRIAL WAS COMPLETED(includes cases from previous years) :||5,284||5,061|
|TOTAL CASES PENDING TRIAL AT THE END OF THE YEAR (includes cases from previous years) :||33,468||35,255|
Through this we can understand that every year around 8000 cases on dowry deaths alone are reported, if the no. of unreported dowry deaths are included then the no. would exceed considerably. In the year 2014, 8,455 dowry deaths were reported. Out of 35,255 pending cases only 7,653 were actually sent for trial, and out of these 7,653 cases, trial was completed in only 5,061 cases. With the increase in the number of pending cases every year, more and more cases will continue to get stacked up, due to which many families will have to wait to fight a long battle for justice.
I strongly believe in the words of Mahatma Gandhi who said that “Any young man, who makes dowry a condition to marriage, discredits his education and his country and dishonours womanhood.”
According to me, the most effective remedy to this issue is to bring consciousness against this evil system and spread the importance of empowerment among women- both economic and social through education and social awareness. The youth should also be made aware of the consequences of taking or giving dowry and should be explained the legal practices involved to stop others from being involved in this crime. Refusal by the bride’s father to pay dowry, refusal by the girls to get married if dowry is demanded, and attaching of ‘social stigma’ to those who demand dowry can alone ultimately put an end to this system, or at least reduce its prevalence. Parents should also support their daughter through all her problems and not fall for societal pressure. I believe it is the responsibility of the government to raise powerful laws, the responsibility of the executive to execute and implement all these laws productively and the responsibility of the judiciary to make sure these laws are upheld and the guilty are convicted. I believe state governments should ensure that full time dowry prohibition officers are appointed, just as mentioned in the Dowry Prohibition law .The judiciary should also speed up its proceedings in such cases, and should ensure that more pending cases do not get stacked up at the end of each year. I believe, if possible the government should also consider setting up courts primarily committed to crimes against women only.
Major development in all walks of life cannot be observed when half of us are held back, and women must move ahead with the conviction that no one can make them feel inferior without their consent. The fact that I live in a society that takes pride in giving and taking dowry is completely disgraceful because remember you aren’t favoring the girl, but you are pricing your sons existence.
Thank You 🙂