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The evil practice of dowry continues to hold a strong grip over Indian society. Here is an insightful take on what makes it so strong, and how we can combat it.
All girls love to look as pretty as possible on their wedding days; but do we need to look like walking jewellery shops, covered from head to toe in flashy, ostentatious jewellery that makes us crouch all day under its weight?
All girls want to live a ‘happily ever after’ married life; but do we need to ‘buy’ happiness by gifting stacks of money as a pre-condition for marriage or bequeath land/property or any other asset in the name of wedding gifts?
Whatever be the bogus name given to such gifts, they all fall under the specification of “dowry“. And in one way or the other we all are guilty of making this ‘evil’ a part of our lives. Giving dowry either as cash, gold or other tangible assets is rampant throughout India. The sad fact is that we condemn this publicly, but encourage privately.
The sad fact is that we condemn this publicly, but encourage privately.
What inspired me to write on this issue, is the sight of a photo doing the rounds on a social site; of a South Indian bride wearing enormous amounts of gold on her body. As if it was not enough , she wore a golden head gear that covered her whole head, and the rest of them that she was unable to wear, were held in a tray in her hands. I could not say what emotion it evoked in me; awe, sympathy, ridicule or contempt!
If women themselves become promoters of such social menace, we seriously need to contemplate upon the dubiousness of the entire system.
Women have come a long way and have excelled in all walks of life. Yet, when it comes to marriage they are considered as “goods” for trade. And those who win a fair bargain win their hands! However academically or professionally successful they may be, only the certificates of the groom-to-be matters!
Greater the weight of Gold or larger the bank balance , the more efficient groom she gets.
Greater the weight of Gold or larger the bank balance , the more efficient groom she gets. No wonder parents of brides end up grooming their daughters as jewellery brand models or make sure that a decent sum is transferred to their would be son-in-law’s account, for ensuring a better future for their daughters.
The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, prohibits the request, payment or acceptance of dowry, as consideration for the marriage. Asking or giving of dowry can be punished by an imprisonment of up to six months, or a fine of up to 5000.
Section 498-A, IPC, makes cruelty by the husband or his relatives punishable with imprisonment up to three years .
Section 304-B, IPC provides that where the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage and it is shown that immediately before her death she was harassed and put to cruelty by her husband or any relative of the husband in connection with demand for dowry, such death shall be called as dowry death
Although we have such stringent laws to our aid, these proved to be just toothless pieces of legislation for the simple reason that they lacked public backing. Neither the ‘taker’ shows any shame in bargaining for the “right amount of dowry”, nor the ‘giver’ considers this as anything out of the ordinary. Hence, the dowry system continues to be accepted and approved as a social custom.
Moreover, dowry deaths, and cases of torture and harassment in the privacy of husband’s house often go unreported. If reported, they tend to get underplayed by the media, condemned by misogynist groups, and questioned about its verity by society itself. They fail to draw the interest of anyone concerned, although in terms of gravity and incidence rate of crimes they are next to rape itself !
There has been widespread allegations by many Men’s associations that Section 498-A needs to be scrapped for being widely abused by women. I would like to invite their attention to the fact that the number of crimes against women stand on a much higher rate than the abuse itself . Moreover, one cannot shut their eyes to the statistics of dowry related cases and dowry deaths in India and still cry foul.
India has by far the highest number of dowry related deaths in the world according to Indian National Crime Record Bureau. In 2010, 8391 dowry death cases were reported across India. This means a bride was burned every 90 minutes. If the section is abused, the men have every right to defend themselves and if not supported by evidence they can come out untainted. But what about those hapless women who have recourse to no other legal remedies other than this?
Eradication of dowry system would be possible only if we women unite and forge a social understanding. A social engineering of sorts that should start at the subliminal level…
1) by creating awareness, especially among the youth of the country
2) by adhering to a minimal & standard usage of Gold (for those who cant shed the penchant for Gold ornaments wholly)
3) by ensuring financial stability of their own
4) by learning to say ‘No’ to overt demands of dowry and warning them with legal consequences.
5) by enlightening ones own parents and siblings to not heed to dowry demands, in their bid to buy happiness for their daughters/sisters.
6) Most importantly, by recognizing our own true worth!
For we all are beautiful in our own ways, talented and skilled in our ways, and we deserve the best and not just the result of a negotiation or a deal.
Given a chance, ask those dowry seekers : What would you gift me, if I take the choice of agreeing to live in unknown environments post marriage, leaving the comfort of my home, my parents, my siblings, surrendering my own identity by accepting a surname that was never mine until the day before, or adjusting to the likes and dislikes of a someone else and his family before looking into mine, and most importantly, for giving myself in marriage to you?
Pic credit: Meghdutgorai (Used under a CC license)
A legal consultant, settled in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates; my first love is and has
This is a very important topic in the area of gender bias in our society. It is not just the blatant dowry………what about the finances towards marriage hall, banquet, flowers, decorations, gifts for the guests, conveyance for the groom’s family, so on and so forth…..my head spins. Why does the bride’s parents need to pay for that?
My question to all –
1.) ‘if the marriage is a bonding between 2 individuals and it is going to bring happiness to both the families, then why just the bride’s family need to pay for all these and get criticised later, for a few lapses in the arrangements. Should not it be shared 50-50 by both parties?
2.) Even if they say that the amount is for the money the husband earns to take care all the needs of the wife, then what about the time and effort the wife is putting in for the family?
Also, are all the women, given good care by the husband? Many women’s health and career regress after marriage….who is accounting that? So the money paid by the bride’s parents does not guarantee her happiness in any way !!
The only solution will be to tell our children (be it boy or girl) to start becoming financially independent and take care of their marital family, WITHOUT DEPENDING ON THE PARENTAL INCOME. Parents should support them only if it is very essential and dire need, and that too only for short term. This would give them more responsibility and focus. The westerners consider it a shame if they depend on their parents on anything beyond 18 years. Why can’t we inculcate this responsibility in them. It is cheap attitude to expect someone else to pay for us, even after we become fully grown up adults !!
Lively – Yes. Very well said. Moreover, one more point is that we all shamelessly take money from our parents, but do not exercise our rights to take care of them in their old age. I have not seen many Indian couple, who take pride in saying that they are taking care of both their parents (i.e., the man’s and the woman’s parents) when they are in need.
Time enough women start asserting themselves by taking care of their aged parents. (though they will face ridicule and wrath from the husband’s family). After all, every mother bears the baby and undergoes the same pain in delivering the child. The gender being male does not mean she bears it for extra month and the pain is more in bringing up the child !!
Superb article. But the larger responsibility is we the girls and the women need to say NO to anybody asking for dowry. When the girls keep to their promises, I don’t think it won’t be long when these dowry hungry people will not kneel down, for every parents want their sons and daughters to be married. Yes, the pratha of looking after the elders should be reconstituted and agreed upon before settling down with marriage. Be it the bride’s parents or the bridegroom’s parent, all of them needs to be cared for.
That is so true! I hate wearing jewellery, but every time I say i don’t like it, all the ‘aunties’ around me have the same reply : “you may not like it, but your in-laws will feel differently”.
They condemn it publicly and encourage it privately.
Weddings are a nightmare for the brides and their family. In the name of tradition we are forced to do the same things over and over again. Even when it no longer makes sense.
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