The dowry system is a highly prevalent societal issue in India that once started as a custom, but now has turned into an evil culture. Dowry refers to the payment made by the bride’s family to her in-laws in cash or kind (valuable goods like furniture, jewellery etc.) at the time of marriage.
On an average, more than 20 women are killed everyday due to dowry. This large number varies across region, religion, caste and sub-caste, groom’s education, bride’s skin tone and the negotiation skills of both the families involved. The bride’s family usually gives these gifts for the well-being and financial security of their daughter in her in-laws’ house.
But now, this commonly and widely practiced culture of South Asian, African and European countries has brought major problems to society. This practice can be linked to patriarchal issues such as dependency of woman on her husband, gender inequality, the rising number of female foeticide etc.
But not everyone has the ability to give dowry. This is one of the primary reasons that poor families think a girl is a burden on them. They find themselves incapable of giving dowry, thus leading to female infanticide cases in many parts of India. These poor families are expected to sacrifice their entire earnings and family property just to ensure a stable and fulfilling marriage of their daughter.
Because of this, rather than sending their daughters to school, they end up saving money for their marriages. But greed has no end. We are well aware of the news of killing or setting blaze of brides by their in-laws or husband over their demand for more dowry. Our daily newspapers are filled with so many of such cases of dowry deaths or domestic harassment.
Even if somehow, a bride is able to give dowry, families get greedy and start harassing her for not giving enough dowry and pressurise her to give more. Therefore, to restrain such atrocious incidents, the government of India had passed some laws. These include the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 and Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005.
According to these laws, giving or receiving dowry is prohibited and anyone who gives or takes dowry can be punished with imprisonment of not less than five years and a fine of around Rs 15,000. But these anti-dowry laws are ineffective due to their weak implementation, wide practice of this vice and lack of education among poor or marginalised sections of India.
The dowry system has been curtailed in law, but the real image of society shows is quite different. The National Crime Record Bureau of India reports that every hour, a woman succumbs to dowry-related death. Even with an increasing awareness among youth, this bane culture is not showing abating signs.
The actual picture is worse than what is being reported. Many dowry cases get obscured by the bride’s family to save their family prestige and honour. It is deplorable that such traditions are still carried in India at a wide level despite growing awareness, education and governmental laws. Thus, it’s the need of the hour to implement these laws instead of just having them written in our Constitution, so that every married woman has the opportunity to live a happy and honoured life.
Note: The article was originally published here.