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Dowry Reported, But Why Is There No “Next”?

Posted: July 1, 2012

Every day you read about the atrocities committed against the “stronger” sex (yes that was intentional!) from the time they are yet-to-be-born till they die, naturally or unnaturally. And then just when you think things cannot get worse, you hear of a story that sounds like the silver lining in the cloud, that re-affirms your faith that all is not lost, that women can speak up for themselves and will always do so.

Dowry was made illegal in India more than five decades back. But it still lingers in our society, and in every strata of the society. If at all, it takes an uglier form in the upper strata, where affordability exists, and a lot more is on stake, societal standing included. Here dowry is hidden under a blanket of rituals, traditions and gifts to the newly-wed couple.

Archana* is a well-educated girl, who studied in Delhi, is a topper in English (Hons.) from the best and most coveted girls’ college of University of Delhi and working with a leading corporate. Like in a lot of other Indian families, her parents arranged her marriage. Boy’s family met girl’s family, girl’s family met boy’s family, girl met boy and so on…

For the uninitiated, each of these occasions in an Indian wedding is marked with an exchange of gifts, with the scales tipping to the boy’s side. Then came the money for the arranging the engagement, which the girl’s side paid to the boy’s family. Then the money for the marriage arrangements, then the shagun, the gifts…. In this case, the girl remained in near-complete ignorance of whatever “gifts” were “requested”.  Three days prior to the wedding, another atrocious demand, this one for a car, was made. This conversation was overheard by chance by the girl revealing all the drama to her. And she called off the wedding. Period.

What next? If we try to analyze why this evil is still present in our country, it is because there is no “next”. We pat the girl’s back, call her a hero. We call the boy and his family names. And then everyone gets on with their lives. The girl and family report the issue and move on with their life. The boy and his family get off scot free, ready to leech at someone else’s household next. And the cycle continues.

The society can do its bit by reporting such issues, and it does! But in the absence of backup action by lawmakers, these reports become useless. Shouldn’t law move equally fast in penalizing the offenders?

* Name changed to protect privacy.

*Photo credit: Salil Waadhavkar (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)

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  1. You talk of everyone getting on with their lives. I know of a well educated girl who worked as an air hostess with Indian Airlines who was murdered for dowry. The boy was arrested and later released for lack of evidence. A relative by marriage of the dead girl’s older sister got his daughter married to the very same boy even after he had heard the story first hand from the sister. Reason? The girl did not know to handle the situation. After all dowry is given and accepted What’s new about it?

    If girl’s can be married to men who murder their wives for dowry and society accepts it as the girl’s fault then we need to do some serious introspection.

  2. I’m torn here. I can’t help but see that dowry is a horrible thing to demand. Yet…I also don’t believe the government should interfere in a private contract between two parties. Whether the girl’s parents agree to dowry or the boy’s parents ask for it is ultimately between them. If one wants to give it and the other wants to take it, I don’t see why the government needs to get involved.

    As long as no one’s rights are being violated, no one is being physically forced or blackmailed into marriage etc, I can’t bring myself to agree with the anti dowry law. The only change that has to come is from the people themselves. The government can do its bit by educating people, putting up posters, billboards etc similar to the “We two ours one” slogan that we see everywhere.

    But I realize this is a larger philosophical issue that I just wrote about: Should laws cater to social realities?

    • What kind of a person would want money during his wedding? This is something you should learn from home. We all know how groom’s parents view the money.As a compensation for the investment they made for his son and now that you r daughter is going to eat from our home , give us.Plus our culture of arranged marriage, virginity, the black mark attached to a girl whose engagement broke ,A woman who marries more than once creates an environment perfect for crimes. Most girls in India have noe exposure. Most boys nowadays take the money and continue thier premarital affair on the side. They marry only for the money.

      Definition of good girl in India is ….a girl who doesnt answer back, who doesnt understand what a man is doing , who ll blame herself for whatever is happening in her life….sigh!!!

      When we marry we should marry the person (man or woman) he or she should have the qualities of a good human being / spouse.The money he/she brings from her folks is greed.

    • Of course it’s greed. But in my opinion, that doesn’t mean the government should get involved. People have every right to be greedy if they want. It’s not illegal to have bad manners and be obnoxious. The price is that people won’t like you and will avoid your company. But that’s not a reason to put someone in jail no?

      Ultimately no one is forcing the girl to marry (presuming she’s an adult). She can simply choose not to enter the marriage and be done with it. If she continues on knowing the facts, what are we to do? It’s her choice and we shouldn’t interfere with it.

  3. @Hip Grandma – My sincere apologies I missed your comment, and never replied. What you say is exactly the basis for the article. People report dowry cases, and then “move on”. One rarely ever follows up on the case. Emotionally, I agree, it is hard for the victim’s family. Even in the case you quote, everyone except the girl’s immediate family seems to have moved on.
    @Bhagwad – The question here is not whether government intervention is required. It is about the lack of action “after” a case has been reported. The law would have done it’s bit by ensuring that people against whom cases are lodged are not allowed to get away.

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