When we think of the deep-rooted social evils in our society, dowry system seems to be one of the most influential of them. With its adoption across different communities across religions or caste has led to a century old ceremony turn into a social atrocity. The gift exchange ceremony to induce harmony in the relations has been severely modified to impose forced monetary extraction from the bride’s family. Be it in cash or kind, additional financial burden takes a toll on the sufferer.
According to Wikipedia, “Dowry” in the sense of the expression contemplated through the Dowry Prohibition Act is a demand for property of valuable security having an inextricable nexus with the marriage, i.e., it is a consideration from the side of the bride’s parents or relatives to the groom or his parents and/or guardian for the agreement to marry the bride-to-be.
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, dowry is the money or property that a wife or wife’s family gives to her husband when the wife and husband marry in some cultures.
Similarly, the oxford dictionary defines it as the amount of property or money brought by a bride to her husband on their marriage.
The word dowry owes its origin to Anglo-Norman French word, dowarie, and has continued to exist for long in the society. The practise, which once was a gift exchanging ceremony, has transformed into a dilapidated social evil, striking the very building blocks of the relation to shatters. The groom’s family seemingly go reluctant to part with the dowry and its the bride’s family which faces the brunt.
The ancient India cannot be accounted for the downfall of status of women in the society and the surge of the dowry system. According to several studies, dowry wasn’t the primary requisite to initiate the selection of the bride. Rather, her personal characteristics, and eticates as a human defined her stance for the perfect partner to the groom.
According to Al-Biruni, dowry system wasn’t practised in ancient India as early as 1035 AD. Marriage was not a liability, rather, it was the event of peace and enjoyment. The male would gift a present to the girl and henceforth held no right to ask for it back again. Rather, the girl held the discretion in the process and could return the gift if she was not ready to marry the entity.
Causes of Dowry System
The causes of dowry system is explained below:
Greed-Expectation: When the marriage ceremony talks are initiated, a major sector of the society holds the thought that it is the event for extortion from the bride’s family. Several reasons are cited including the dowry is being demanded to compensate the costs of the groom’s education and liability. Well, the fact that the girl is also a responsibility for the family, not a liability, is ignored widely. The primary reason behind such desperate measures can be justified through the greed factor. Owing to expectations of material benefits from the bride’s family, dowry is demanded for, and at times, when the demands are not met, either the marriage is called off, or the bride is exploited leading to domestic violence.
Social Status: The ancient India was quite liberal in the event of gift exchange during marriage. All of it would rest upon the financial status of the families. However, at present, the dowry amount and in-kind gift exchange has led to depletion in status of women in the society, and led to depiction of social stance through the networth exchanged. The financial status of the bride’s family is of little or no significance to the groom’s family leading to prospective dowry extortion in a marriage. Yet again, the bride’s family try to pay it out owing to the fact that losing a marriage proposal would deteriorate their status in the society.
Illiteracy: With a literacy rate of 74.04% in the country, it is quite valid to consider it the primary cause for different social evils. Being from the segment that is not knowledgeable about the laws and legislation, they face several atrocities owing to dowry exchange practices. They are left with little or no choices and have to meet the demands of the groom’s family, which when not met, leads to exploitation of the women.
Status of Women: It is quite obvious that women’s status in the society is not an equal one. The plight doesn’t end here. Rather, the society owes its infrastructure buildup to the effective contribution of both genders alike. However, it is significantly ignored and the ultimate sufferers are the women in such setup. The dowry system is the brainchild of such mindset and is the primary reason behind the plight of women in the nation.
Lack of Willingness to adhere to laws: The Government of our nation has drafted several legislation to counteract the dowry system. However, after the decades of drafting, these laws are still insignificant and this social evil still resides in our society. Seemingly, the primary reason behind the failure is lack of mass participation. People pay no heed to such laws and make sure to exploit the dowry system to gain material benefits under the veil of a marriage proposal. Hence, the demands are made, and owing to ignorance of anti-dowry laws, the bride’s family suffer at the hands of the groom and his family.
Effects of Dowry System
The effects/ impact of dowry system is discussed below:
Initiates gender imbalance: When we speak of gender inequality in the nation, dowry system can be considered the catalyst for this issue. According to the social infrastructure of the nation, it is a common perception that a woman is a liability and is to be married off someday, with a dowry debt at disposal. Well, for the masses, the birth of a girl is an inception to long-term plans to pay off the dowry along with the child.
Seemingly, this saving venture hampers the future of the girl and restricts her of equal opportunities for the mail child. The very future planning for a better marriage proposal ruins the prospects of a merrier life for the child. Well, dowry system can be accounted for atrocities on the masses. The plight of the girl child is initiated with her birth due to this particular infrastructure and continues to hamper her peace of mind and tranquility. According to the latest 2011 census stats, the number of females per 1000 males stands at a meager count of 943. Hence, this impacts the building blocks of the society and hampers the growth of the nation.
Social Effects: Society owes its origins to masses and when we speak of the constituent evils of the segment in our subcontinent, dowry system is one of the most leveraged one. Being widely practiced across the nation, every other family faces the brunt of it. If a demand is not met by the bride’s family, she suffers at the hands of her groom’s family leading to social imbalance and emotional breakdown. Seventy % of our population resides in the villages and this practice still holds its stance midst the economy and the society as a whole. The society seemingly judges the worth of a person on the basis of dowry accepted or received and this framework can be attributed to the detrimental status of woman in the society.
Decrements status of women: When a girl is born, for particular individuals, the societal framework is dismayed. She is no longer a happiness and her birth is no more an occasion. She is deprived of basic rights to education, freedom and speech. However, owing to the basic structure, and the dowry ideology, her ordeal doesn’t end with marriage. For a female individual, with little or no self economic support, she exists at the assistance of her groom. Hence, when his demands aren’t met, it leads to the breakdown of the empathetic relation between the two entities leading to disparity. After a period, this ordeal doesn’t come to conclusion, rather, it leads to domestic violence and poses a serious threat to the future of the family. The girl loses on her freedom once she is married and it yet again, comes at the cost of a dowry debt.
Promotes domestic violence and crime: Dowry system initiates the act of violence in the society. When demands are not met by the bride’s family, the atrocities elevate proportionately. At times, extreme steps are undertaken to shell out financial grants or material benefits from the bride’s family. Well, yet again these steps can be attributed to the much debated domestic violence. The crimes against women take a surge owing to this structure of extortion.
Economic effects: Economy is not just the financial stockpile of the nation. Rather, it is a deep-vested, mass effort to bring the platter for every individual. Dowry system, though it seems a minor social evil can affect the nation and it’s individuals alike. Owing to this setup, women aren’t granted equal rights and opportunities, leading to loss of economic workforce from the segment. Women are active participants in the development of the nation, and if their rights are hampered at the domestic level, it affects our economic build-up significantly. We lose the consistent workforce at the hands of a social evil and hamper the growth of our own home and the society.
Deteriorating financial status of bride’s family: Dowry doesn’t affect the bride alone. Rather, its ordeal extends to bride’s parents and they have to bear the financial demands of their counterparts to ensure well-being of their child. With regular demands from the groom’s family, reports of suicides are yet again common in the country. Needless to say, this social evil should necessarily be eradicated for the society and the nation.
Loss of self-esteem among the women: The demands being met for the welfare of the bride comes at a cost. Out of concern for her parents, she loses on self-esteem by believing she is a burden on her family. It costs her peace of mind, and her right to a better life. Dowry system has imposed an invisible chain upon the freedom and self-respect of women and continues to haunt them since time eternal. Observing the problem closely, the greed of an individual ruins the peace of a beautiful brain.
Laws Against Dowry System in India
The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961: The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 was one of the most significant attempt for the uplift of women’s status in the society and the abatement of dowry system. This legislation marked the inception of an evolution leading to development of a legal infrastructure which effectively monitored the exchange and facilitation of exchange of dowry. It imposes a penalty in section 3 in case of exchange or demand for dowry. The minimum term for the lay-off was 5 years and a minimum fine of INR 15,000 or the amount of dowry, depending upon whichever is higher. In case a demand for dowry was made, it was equally punishable in the legislation. Well, if a direct or indirect demand was made, it would invoke a prison term of 6 months at the threshold with a fine of INR 10,000.
Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005: Women are one of the most significant assets of the society and are active contributors in an all round development of the nation. However, owing to the male dominated setup in our society, they suffer both physically and mentally. Well, their ordeal is not limited to the society as a whole. Rather, several cases reveal that domestic violence is still a significant deterrent against the uplift of the woman’s status in the society.
To counteract the abuse women face at their own abode, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 was passed. It facilitated a civil law solution to protect a woman from domestic violence in India. The definition and the segments included in the legislation are diversified and include all forms of abuse, namely, physical ,emotional, economic, sexual or verbal aggression.
The solution/preventive measures aimed at curbing the dowry system is summarized below:
Education: Education is the primary catalyst of growth in any nation. If we have to reach out across the nation and make sure the mainstream community is at par with the nation’s prospects, education is a necessity. Lack of education leads to irresponsible decisions leading to financial exploitation from a marriage relation. Dowry system is a social evil and owes its origination to ignorance and illiteracy. Eradicating this evil is not possible without educating the society. The legislation aren’t enough to bring a revolution. Rather, the masses are the ones who hold the concentrate to eliminate the dowry system.
Making women self-dependent: The female sect of our society is an active contributor in the development of the home, the society and the nation as a whole. To churn out productivity, and ride upon the reins of development, women empowerment is a necessity. However, owing to the dowry system, they are exploited both emotionally and verbally. It hampers their development and thought process. Hence, ensuring employment opportunities for the female sect and making education feasible seems the first step to ensure annihilation of dowry system from the society. In the long run, legislations will turn out to be effective, if crimes are reported, and a well educated society inclusive of self-dependent women will ensure robust reporting of dowry related crimes.
Gender Equality: The primary reason behind dowry system is the existence of a patriarchal society. Owing to such a social infrastructure, the dowry system still finds its takers and propagators. To ensure removal of dowry system from the nerves of our system, gender equality is the second step. Educating children about the drawbacks of dowry system, and making sure that they inculcate the spirit to boycott it, is the long-term solution to the issue. To eradicate this evil, we need to learn and educate others about the ill-effects of it and it can be achieved by providing equal rights to both genders. Well, granting equal employment opportunities won’t be enough. Rather, altering the mindset of the masses, and making them realize that a girl child is an entity, not a liability is the long-term solution to the issue.
Initiating Mass Media Campaigning: Media is the propagator of knowledge and the janitor of information interchange. Well, almost every single revolution owes its origins to media campaigns. Yet again, the dowry system asks for a revolution. The legislation have been in the stock for the past few decades, but they have been ineffective to deal with the case. However, media holds the potential to remove dowry system from the mainstream Indian society. By publishing related news and making the authorities aware of any reported case of dowry related crime, they can keep an effective check upon the prospects. Enhancing information interchange is the first step to a well-aware community and media is the perfect medium for the task.
Government Initiatives: Government is the body which holds the key to development of a nation. It is the formulator of laws and executes them to make sure people follow them for the betterment of the society. Dowry system has been a part of the society since time eternal. The government has made legislation to limit the dowry exchange. However, it has turned out to be ineffective. Well, to ensure the people follow the laws, proper implementation should be carried out. It should monitor the sentiments of the community and ensure that no dowry exchange exercises are carried out.
Social Awareness Campaigns: When we speak of awareness and revolution, we have to recall that it cannot be brought about by the legislation or the government alone. We as individuals, make up the society, and the first step for change is to be initiated by the society itself. Dowry system has long been exploiting the weak and hampering the right to peaceful existence of a woman. Well, government can formulate rules, it depends upon the community to follow it or not. Hence, social awareness is the necessity to ensure robust annihilation of dowry system from the nation. It is a feat which cannot be achieved by the government alone. Active community participation is the primary requisite to make people aware of their rights and hence, in the long term, garner women their rights, and grant them apodictic freedom.