Dowry’s Shadow: A persistent stain on India’s progress

Shikha Sharma
In India,many traditions get followed for ages,some of them were initially started with a concern to make life easier and one of such systems is dowry. Dowry is merely not word but an action of practise. Dowry is a belief that Indian society has a long preserved that women are a burden on families .The dowry system reduces the woman’s value to the gold ornaments and money she brings to her husband’s, house. We Indians actively follow an outdated tradition of projecting the bride groom’s family as superior to bride’s family. It was also a system of honouring the groom for his willingness to accept the bride as his wife in marriage, and the gifts given could range from anything significant to even a small token of good wishes. However, the greed for dowry has affected most ordinary families in India. This menace is the root cause of almost all violence against a married woman. Problem arise when the wife isn’t ready to provide all, which her husband and in laws demand, her life within the groom’s house become miserable. She will be treated cruelly and in some cases she may lose her life.
Root of Dowry : Dowry is derived from the ancient Hindu customs of ”Kanyadann’ (kanya means daughter and dann means gifts, kanyadann means giving daughter in marriage) ‘and ”stridhan”.In kanyadan ,the father of the bride offers the father of the groom money or property etc.whereas for ”stridhan” the bride herself gets jewellery and clothes at the time of her marriage usually from her relatives or friends.The Hindu marriage system is sarcamental.According to this system ,a marriage is forever and their is no scope for separation. Among various ceremonies previously practiced, the ceremony in front of ”Godly fire” has taken over, the antiquated system of marrying a wife by capture.This form of marriage began the pratice of dowry with its twisted evolution from a symbolic gesture to a transactional demand, reflect the deeply ingrained patriarchal norms that view woman as a burden on their families. This fuel economic inequalities, placing an unbearable burden on families, especially those who belong to unprivileged communities. Debt, exploitation, and even the sale of property become desperate measures to meet these demands.In majority of Indian families the boy has inheritance rights while the girl is given a hefty sum at the time of her marriage in lieu of the Government regulated equal rights for girls in parental property. Dowry no longer remain as the process of reciprocity .It has impacted the life of women harshly. There are several reasons for the prevalence of the dowry system,but the main one is that it is a necessary precondition for marriage .”No Dowry, No Marriage”,is a widespread fear.
In the modern era, the practice of dowry requires the bride’s family to transfer goods to the groom’s family in consideration for the marriage. Since marriages in India are a time for big celebrations in each family, they tend to be very lavish.
Consequences of Dowry Violence : Dowry demands often lead to domestic violence, harassment and even abuse. Inextreme case,dowry death,where brides are murdered.
Abetment to suicide : Continuing abuse by the husband and his family with threats of harm could lead to a woman committing suicide,
Psychologival Trauma : create immense psychological stress for women,impacting their well being and self esteem.
Gender Inequality: The practice reinforce the notion of women as commodities and perpetuating gender discrimination and hindering their advancement in society.
Financial Burden: For families,especially those belonging to disadvantaged communities ,the burden of meeting dowry demands can be crippling,leading to exploitation
According to NCRB Data 2022, 6450 Dowry deaths were reported in India which shows slight decrease from 2021 6890 but remains a significant concern
More than a just a legal issue : Eradicating this social evil requires more than just legal interventions like the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961 and Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005,which often face challenges in enforcement .It demands a collective effort to;
Shift Mindsets: Challenging patriarchal norms and promoting gender equality through cultural interventions and social dialogues
Creating social stigma against Dowry: Accepting dowry should be made a social stigma and all generations should be addressed.
Educate and Empower : Comprehensive social awareness campaigns aimed at communities, especially young people are crucial to highlight.
Strengthen Enforcement: Stringent penalties for violators and improved enforcement mechanism are needed.
Economic Independence
When a woman is accepted not from her virtues except for the cash she brings and when the dowry she brings is that the be all and end all of the transaction, the marriage looses all sanctity and sublimity.
The problem of dowry demand is not merely one of the family demanding cash and goods, beyond the capacity and desire of another family to give but rather a question of the inter relatedness of psychological, social and financial factor.This can be attributed to an internalization of prevailing particular values which view women as inferior and being only themselves responsible for his or her predicament. It seldom sees them as victims of a particular from of oppression or of socially prevalent sex biases. The burden of tradition, a prevailing ideology of male superiority, insensitive police force, and archaic judiciary and a society that condones violence creates a chamber of horror where even angels would fear to tread. As it is said whenever there is light, there is shadow too, similarly, in order to provide justice to women and to protect them from dowry harassment in their best interest, there have been cases of misuse of the laws and provisions provided to help and protect them (Dowry Prohibition Act,1961). These provisions and rights have been exploited in a wrong manner and that too it has happened for a reasonable period of time now. This is one of the loopholes that is needed to be corrected and rectified by the same nobel and intellectual law-makers who have laid down these provisions keeping in mind the protection of women from the heinous crime of dowry.The practice of dowry is not only illegal but also unethical.Dowry is deeply embedded in the social fabric of India.It is strongly embedded in society’s patriarchal mindset.It’s a collective responsibility and time for action is now. Many women can be spared from this tragedy if they are removed from the sources of abuse in a timely manner and the perpetrators are punished.