This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Karthika S Nair. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Why Do People Continue To Defend And Excuse The Dowry System?

More from Karthika S Nair

Take any Malayalam movie from the 1990s or 2000s that had the theme of family and relationships. There will be that one sister or daughter who has been married off. The hero or his father works very hard to save enough money so that she can have a good future. Such female characters are used as plot devices to ensure that the hero gets sympathy or is likeable.

We never know what her dreams, ambitions or education qualifications are. In most films, they are voiceless background characters shown in socially constructed ideal womanhood (timid, obedient, disciplined). We just know that they exist in the hero’s universe to raise the stakes enough to know that he should make enough for her marriage.

This kind of mentality still exists among people who, once a girl child is born, start worrying about how they would conduct her marriage. The dowry system is something that is still practiced by people as per different customs, cultures, traditions and rituals.

Looking at a broader definition, dowry is the transfer of parental property, gifts, property or money upon the marriage of a woman. 

In earlier times, women’s roles were limited to being a good wife, mother or daughter-in-law. Marriage as a system was about providing a home to men who took over authoritative and administrative roles in society. He brings home a wife to look after him and his family, and give birth to his lineage.

India's Dowry Problem
Photo by: Thierry Falise/LightRocket via Getty Images

While historical texts still debate on inheritance and gender, as per their culture, it is the son who inherits his father’s property (except in Kerala). The only property daughters get is the dowry given to their husband’s family. She is dependent on her husband and in-laws likewise.

When it comes to today’s era, it does make one wonder how effective the education system is because the dowry system is still being practiced today.

It Also Makes One Question, Why?

Recently, a woman died by suicide due to the severe degree of harassment she suffered at the hands of her husband and in-laws. She was married off before she could finish her degree.

Her husband was given massive dowry in form of land, gold or car. Her husband started harassing her because he didn’t like the car and wanted that money in cash. Even her in-laws admitted that he wasn’t happy with the car.

As per reports, her husband injured her brother during an altercation. He beat her in front of her parents. But then, she was asked by the authorities to “adjust” and compromise. Due to the fear of social stigma, she chose to remain in her marriage. She sent images of her bruises and injuries to her cousin days before she killed herself.

Her story is yet another tragic case of how women are dehumanised to an extent that she is given respect only as long as she becomes the epitome of sacrifice and compromise. Her mother also persuaded her to go back to her husband.

As expected, her death led to the usual phase of outrage across the state. People are taking to social media to express their anger and dismissed the dowry system as a practice. This also includes people who will question the lack of gold around the bride’s neck during her wedding or question “how much she is bringing with her.”

We know that it is only a matter of time before this sympathy and outrage die down, and, more reasons to defend the dowry system are brought up. Or we see the usual WhatsApp jokes that describe marriage as an institution where only men suffer and women are gold diggers.

Last year, a husband killed her wife over dowry-related issues. Another woman was harassed by her husband after he lost his job due to lockdown for dowry. She killed herself. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan spoke out against the practice of dowry and harassment, calling it a social evil.

Every single person who has had access to economics and moral education in his or her school known that the dowry system is a social evil. Not only that, it is illegal under the Dowry Prohibition Act that came into effect in 1961. There are various sections that deal with domestic violence, harassment and abuse.

Still, It Is Being Practiced. Why?

Apart from the legal aspects, the social status of women has changed in the last century. More women are participating in administrative and authoritative roles. Women are also breadwinners and give their share in providing for the family. Women also purchase a property.

Since 2005, daughters have the legal right to inherit their father’s property.

There is no reason to encourage the dowry system as a practice. The country should be changing throughout with their attitude against women. Still, the groom’s family makes demands and the bride’s family submits to them. Brides are then conditioned to believe that their lives will be completely dictated by their husband and in-laws.

Despite getting ranks in schools, women are discouraged from getting a career after marriage and rarely have control over their finances. Then, with the same breathe, men are regarded as the main providers and therefore, the dowry system is defended and excused.

What goes around, comes around.

Things have to change for the better. Bringing an end to social evil is still a collective effort. Otherwise, all moral education is nothing short of a waste.

You must be to comment.
  1. Gopal Sony 🇮🇳

    Well done Karthika I appreciate your efforts to write an article like this. Not only Malyalam but Bollywood films also had the same plot for the movies. I have wrote an article about the practice of dowry system please check it out and share your opinion.
    Keep it up! :-0

More from Karthika S Nair

Similar Posts

By Gopal Sony 🇮🇳

By akhila cg

By Anupama A.L

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below