Dowry in India: Illegal but Thriving

We all know that dowry is not just a criminal offence but an immoral act. However, even after more than 60 years of having an anti-dowry law, this abominable tradition is not just alive but has become an industry on its own. This despicable practice, masquerading in the garb of ‘tradition’, has become so powerful that even the most ardent of feminists may find it difficult to escape its impact when it comes to their own marriage, that is unless they decide to put their foot down. But even if they can convince both their own family and their in-laws to shun this evil, there is still the fear of mental/physical torture or even death handing around their heads like the \’Sword of Damocles\’. So why is it that many of us treat dowry as something to be celebrated and venerated, instead of being castrated from our culture and relegated to the annals of history? While it is true that I am not judging someone who knowingly indulges in this vituperative practice, it says a lot about your belief system if you are not just okay but also happy with the practice of dowry (in its present form), and are willingly encouraging/enforcing this , or support those who indulge in this practice.

What is Dowry?

For the uninitiated, dowry is the payment of cash/kind by the bride\’s family to the groom, or his kin, on the day of their marriage. Although it is an ancient custom practiced in many countries, the main issue with the dowry system is that many families set it as a precondition for marriage, especially in patriarchal societies like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc. We have imbibed this practice wholeheartedly without once questioning the essentially flawed reasoning used by its cheerleaders to justify their demand for huge sums of money and valuables without any shame. This practice has become an integral part of most marriages in our subcontinent, so much so that the desis from this part of the world who have settled abroad carry out this reprehensible practice with great pomp and vigour.

Is Dowry Illegal in India?

You bet it is. Dowry has been declared as a criminal offence under both the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 and Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. Anyone found indulging in this godawful practice will be arrested, provided that it is reported to the police. However, it is pretty clear that following this \’so-called\’ tradition is more important for many people even if it comes at the cost of being thrown behind bars, although jail time is highly unlikely considering the fact that much like breaking traffic rules, the practice of dowry in India is not only condoned by the society but is even seen as a source of pride. The groom\’s family can happily parade their son , as they have been able to

The Dowry System is Inhuman

The problem with dowry in India is that people have accepted this practice as the ultimate truth without once stopping to look at how everyone shamelessly expects the bride\’s family to essentially hand over their hard earned money to the groom without hesitation, much akin to daylight robbery. The fact that our society is completely okay with bringing an entire family to their knees and subjecting them to immense financial, psychological, and physiological pressure just so that this tradition is followed says a lot about who we are. The defenders of this nonsensical practice will tell you that the essential reason behind following this system is to ensure that both the husband and wife have enough capital in the form of cash, property, valuables, etc. to start their married life without any financial constraints. If that is the actual intention behind demanding dowry, then why is the girl\’s family expected to pay for all this, apart from footing the wedding bills, especially in rural areas? If financial security of the newly wedded couple is the sole intention of practicing dowry, why can\’t the groom\’s family be an equal contributor in this exercise?

Hypocrisy ki bhi seema hoti hai

I have even heard grown-ass men justifying their acceptance of dowry not out of their desire to lay their hands on someone else\’s belongings, but as an act of benevolence towards the bride\’s family, who would otherwise feel both affronted and humiliated at the prospect of not being able to part away with their life savings at their daughter\’s wedding. Irony would have died a thousand deaths after hearing this argument. The fact is that such dense arguments conveniently hide the fact that a number of families have had to undertake huge sums of debt just to finance the wedding expenses of their daughters. Moreover, you can pick any newspaper around the country or go to any news website and you will find at least 10 cases of women being physically and mentally harassed, divorced, raped or even killed for not being able to fulfil their in-laws\’ insatiable appetite for dowry. Pray tell me the merits of this execrable practice, which is supposed to be an integral part of our culture, and I will give you real life examples of countless cases of women being burned alive, with many of them still held up in courts, just because their husbands and/or in-laws were not happy with the amount that they managed to extract from the bride\’s family in the name of dowry.


If you still agree with the practice of dowry, you are nothing more than an insensitive prick who is willing to put your future wife\’s family under immense financial pressure just to satisfy your ego and greed. I can go so far as to call dowry a euphemism for extortion or blackmail. A version of this article was first published here.


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