The practice of giving and taking dowry has been prevalent in our society for a long time now. Dowry is also referred to as “Stree Dhan”—to hide its original repressive character. This age-old custom continues to thrive in our country in leaps and bounds.
All the sections of our society are affected by this evil practice, deeply-rooted in our communities like a contagious disease, which knows no religion or caste. In such societies, the female child, once born, becomes/is treated like a burden on the family.
The sole aim of the parents is to marry their daughter into a well-to-do family, which in turn raises more dowry demands. Therefore, the daughter’s parents start accumulating wealth and gifts to give away as dowry to the prospective groom’s family. But people from the marginalised sections, who cannot afford such savings resort to evil practices such as sex determination (prevalent in some affluent sections too) and female foeticide. In our country, malnutrition in female children has possible roots in the fulfillment of social obligations such as dowry which are enforced on all and sundry by the society.
Legally in India, the practice of dowry is banned under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. The Central Civil Services (conduct rules) 1964, explicitly bans the taking and giving of dowry, but in most of the cases it is a government serving employee, asking for more, as a recognition for the ‘secure job’ he has.
In order to understand the ill effects and the process of ‘social obligation’ created by the practice of dowry, let us take a look at a typical, non-ideal, practical society with economic inequalities. The richer sections of the society practice the dowry system with the an aim of getting a better groom. Seeing the rich, the poor also try to follow suit and do the maximum they can, again, with the sole aim of getting a better groom.
In both cases, the person tries his best, but it’s the poorer half, which saves money through their blood, sweat and tears and even end up taking loans to meet the demands of the groom’s family. The poor, who has a low capacity of rebuilding, suffers in case of an unpredictable event such as a major illness, which results in the loss of income, thus rendering them incapable of paying their dues and hence falling in the trap of debt. Thus, the social obligation created by the richer section results in the suffering of the poor.
The most common argument given in favour of this evil practice is that, we (groom/groom’s family) are not demanding any dowry, but they (bride’s family) are giving it on their own. But WE need to realise that it doesn’t matter who is giving and who is not giving it, what matters is understanding that accepting dowry will further lead to the creation of a social obligation, resulting in great misery, especially for the poorer sections.
We should understand that we are part of society and we have a role to play. In other words, we can’t keep on hiding behind the fear of how the society will respond to our rejection of this evil. We, the younger generation, should realise that a little courage on our side to say no to this practice is extremely important. It’s time that we try and change the present-day big fat weddings, from an occasion to show off our wealth to an occasion where we meet each other at a designated place to share our joys!