DOWRY SYSTEM IN INDIA
Student, Amity Law School Noida, Amity University, Noida, [email protected], 8630046980
In most of the countries, the bride price is very common. But, in the modern era, this tradition of bride pricing is being criticized mainly due to the reason that many people believes that this tradition considers women as a commodity. Therefore I was left with a mindset that marriage of a daughter is similar to bestowing. Moreover, in India, a most common practice is that the family of bridegroom demands so many dowries from the family of bride. Due to this demand bride usually suffer from mental and physical distortion if her family is unable to fulfill the demands of bridegroom family. Basically, marriages in India are done only for the sole purpose of dowry . Basically both bride price and dowry is being practiced in India but the dowry has become a more serious matter of concern.
Initially, people use to consider dowry as a token i.e. a kind of gift given to the daughter by her family for her happy life. This dowry was also given in the form of jewellery, cash and gifts in order to maintain the prestige of daughter. But in today’s scenario the dowry has become a demand and is no longer considered as a token.
The dowry demand brings with it murder, torture, violence in the form of electric shocks, torture or burnings. In the year 1995, 6000 dowry deaths per annum were reported by the National Crime Bureau of Government of India. Since the women have to face the system of providing the dowry they often become victim to sex trafficking and prostitution. The girls or women are subjected to dowry demands regardless of their monetary circumstances . There are many girls who are forced to work as sex worker in order to earn money for the marriage of their younger siblings. From the era of British , the attempts were made to eradicate poverty but we were in vain.
HISTORY OF DOWRY
Initially, the main aim of dowry was to grant wealth or estate for the formulation of new house to provide help to husband and his family and also to provide some assistance to the wife as well as children in case he dies , so, we can say that there are few privileges provided to husband in the dowry of his wife. But there may be possibility that wife brings some estate which exclusively belongs to her and is not a part of dowry then that estate is only hers. This estate is away from the belongings of dowry and called exclusive estate .
In earlier times also, dowry was considered as a part of tradition. There were rules which say that on the death of husband the wife has a right to claim dowry as mahr. Moreover this dowry can be claimed only by the sons. But in case a woman dies and when she died she does not have sons then in that case the husband is under a duty to give back the dowry but he is entitled to reduce the amount of bride value; hence the dowry is usually greater .
LAWS ON DOWRY
There are many laws which prohibit harassment of women and payment of dowry. One of the most important legislation is “Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 “, its section-304B and 498A provides for dowry related provisions. Other important legislations are “Indian Penal Code “, “Evidence Act “. But the real situation is that these laws are not effective because of the police and court inefficiency and reluctant behavior of women to make use of criminal law.
There are many places in India where daughters have fewer rights including inheritance rights as compared to sons. So, it is believed that this dowry system is practiced to fulfill this inequality of inheritance. Apart from this cultural tradition, economic factor also plays a crucial role in the dowry system. If we want to change this situation then we should empower women and aware them about the legal protection and impacts of dowry system. If the women will start contributing to the families then their inferior status would change and then only dowry system will become weak.
In India there are many organizations and peoples who are helping women to face this harassment of dowry. The women courts are providing an opportunity to the victims of dowry harassment to tell their personal experiences with an aim to aware the public about human rights. One of the main goals of UN’s Sustainable Development is to achieve empowering women and gender equality. This goal addresses macro issues as there should be equal access to political representation as well as micro issues like equal treatment of women in the family.
Finally, there is a need to change the mindset of women by giving them better education and training about their legal rights given in our Constitution. Only then there could be an end to dowry system. The practice of dowry in India which is hurting the women both mentally and physically should be and will be changed.