Prem Kumar Vislawath (email@example.com) , IIT Guwahati, India. DOWRY SYSTEM IN INDIA Submitted by: PremORIGINATIONThe origination of the dowry system in India is not distinctly known. Nevertheless, it is believed that,during the Vedic period, the family of the bride would accept gifts and money from the grooms family.This was taken as an alternative to bloodshed that would normally occur during the capture of the brideas was prevalent at that time. A later modification of this system paved way for the ceremony in front ofa "godly" fire ("Yajna" in Sanskrit). It was this system that led to the present day dowry system in India.DOWRY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIADowry is derived from the ancient Hindu customs of "kanyadan" and "stridhan". In "kanyadan", thefather of the bride offers the father of the groom money or property, etc. whereas for "stridhan", thebride herself gets jewelry and clothes at the time of her marriage, usually from her relatives or friends.In "varadakshina", the father of the bride presents the groom cash or kind. All of these could be donevoluntarily and out of affection and love. According to Kautilya "Means of subsistence or jewelryconstitutes what is called the property of the woman. it is no guilt for a wife to make use of this propertyin maintaining her son her daughter-in-law or herself if her absent husband has made no provision forher maintenance".DOWRY SYSTEM IN MEDIEVAL INDIAIndia, during the medieval years, was primarily an agricultural economy. Most of it’s inhabitants weremarginal farmers. During this period, the dowry system began to be viewed as the sharing of theeconomic burden of protector (husband) and provider (father of the girl) between the two families. Sonow, not only the husband was responsible for providing for his wife, but her father shared thisresponsibility. But until this time, this custom was taken as something decided by mutual understandingand not by any force.POST INDEPENDENCE DOWRY SYSTEM What began sharing of the economic burden of protector and provider role between the two families in an essentially agricultural economy, degenerated into gifts of gold, clothes, consumer durables, and large sums of money, in a few rare cases impoverished or heavily indebted poor
Prem Kumar Vislawath (firstname.lastname@example.org) , IIT Guwahati, India. families. "No dowry, no marriage," became a widespread fear. The price tag for the groom was now bigger and bolder. For this man and his family, a woman became the ticket to shortcut riches through the system of dowry. There were a number of things people desired to have in their own houses but couldn’t afford; they began using the opportunity of a sons marriage to get them. Dowry as a phenomenon went beyond the ritual of marriage. Pregnancy, childbirth and all kinds of religious and family functions were occasions when such demands were made. It also went to different castes, crossed the boundaries of provinces and education and religion. Nowadays, even Muslims and Christians, such as the Syrian Christians of Kerala and the Roman Catholics of Mangalore have started demanding dowry. Official statistics show a steady rise in dowry crimes. More than 5000 women are killed every year in India over dowry. Bihar and Uttar Pradesh still record the maximum number of dowry crimes, but Bangalore, Indias fastest growing city also shows an alarming rise - four women reportedly die every day because of dowry harassment and domestic violence. The cases of dowry torture are the highest accounting for 32.4% of crimes against women in the country.LEGISLATIONS TO INHIBIT DOWRY SYSTEM The 1961 Dowry Prohibition Act: The Dowry Prohibition Act, in force since 1st July 1961, was passed with the purpose of prohibiting the demanding, giving and taking of dowry. According to this law, asking or giving of dowry can be punished by an imprisonment of up to six months, or a fine of up to Rs. 5000. IPC Section 304B: This Section of the Indian Penal Code was inserted by a 1986 amendment. The Dowry deaths law defines a dowry death as the death of a woman caused by any burns or bodily injury or which does not occur under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage. If this is proved, the womans husband or relative is required to be deemed to have caused her death. Whoever commits dowry death is required to be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life. IPC Section 498A: Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine. In practice, cruelty is taken to include Persistent denial of food, Insisting on perverse sexual conduct, Constantly locking a woman out of the house, Denying the woman access to children, thereby causing mental torture, Physical violence,
Prem Kumar Vislawath (email@example.com) , IIT Guwahati, India. Taunting, demoralizing and putting down the woman with the intention of causing mental torture, Confining the woman at home and not allowing her normal social intercourse, Abusing children in their mothers presence with the intention of causing her mental torture, Denying the paternity of the children with the intention of inflicting mental pain upon the mother, and Threatening divorce unless dowry is given.STATISTICS As per data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), in the year 2004 the number of dowry deaths reported were 7,026, in 2005 the figure was 6,787 and in the year 2006 the figure was 7,618. Cases registered under the Dowry Prohibition Act were 3,592 in 2004, in 2005 it was 3,204 and in 2006 the figure increased to 4,504. According to NCRB, in 2005, more than 19 women were killed for dowry every day, 50 were raped and 480 women were subjected to abduction and molestation. According to another study conducted in 2002, 45% Indian women are slapped, kicked or beaten by their husbands. India also had the highest rate of violence during pregnancy. In that study, of the women who reported violence, 50% had been kicked. About 74.8% of them had attempted to commit suicide.FEW CASES.......A six month pregnant women was poisoned by her husband over dowry in Vasant Kunj, New Delhi. Shewas declared brought dead to the hospital. A previous case was also filed against the same man forharassing his wife who was later resolved by them.This happened in a posh colony in Delhi which tells us that concept of dowry is prevalent in urbanhouseholds.Nisha Sharma of Noida got a huge media spotlight when she refused to marry because of dowry demandgetting bigger & filed a police complaint. The groom & his father were also arrested. This case was firstof its kind to be covered extensively by media.
Prem Kumar Vislawath (firstname.lastname@example.org) , IIT Guwahati, India.TODAY’S SCENARIO A more sophisticated public image of an extended gifting session has replaced the old system. This situation is a very modern one and in place in very educated households. Now there is demand for receptions in marriage palaces, designer wear for the groom’s family, multi-cuisine dinners. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are demands for household gifts. The bride’s family has to bear huge expenses for maintaining a high profile wedding. But this in turn exerts pressure on the other classes to ape them with serious social consequences. The women have become a kind of commodity. Dowry rituals have now spread even to communities where they were unknown. It has gone to different castes, crossed the boundaries of provinces and education and religion. Today Muslims & Christians have also started demanding dowry. Another interesting outcome is that a survey (Conducted by TOI on its readers) revealed that 69% people think that Anti-Dowry laws in India are biased against men. There have been many instances of men complaining about losing property to their wives on false dowry cases against them. Ironically many people believe that men are interested in extracting more & more money from their wives, but most of the ones who are brought to the court are the ones who are innocent.PROBLEMS We have seen that the government has been successful in passing strict anti-dowry laws. But according to the surveys & reports they have been unsuccessful in curbing this menace. Crimes are on a steep rise when it comes to dowry related cases. Reported cases are still very low, as the families think reporting such a problem would damage their social status. Leave alone crimes people of other religious groups have also started asking for dowry. On the other hand there have been cases in which women have misused these acts made to protect their rights. This shows that anti-dowry laws need refinement in respect of bias towards women.
Prem Kumar Vislawath (email@example.com) , IIT Guwahati, India. There is no enforcement, the police takes action only when someone report. Government laws alone cannot fight this practice. We need a better solution to eradicate dowry.SOLUTION……..Strategies to work out of the dowry trap are inherently political in nature and cannot beisolated from the contexts of women’s lives, their entitlements or from ideological strugglesover gender relations. It calls for concerted action from the State, NGOs, and especially fromthe women’s movement, active support of a woman’s family as well as responsibility on thepart of men to understand the wrongness in such practices.We can take help of religious leaders to spread awareness as they have a lot of influence ontheir followers.Another Solution could be to reduce economic divide between people. This will ensure thatdowry doesn’t occur at a large scale.CONCLUSIONAll in all, the situation is alarmingly grave and immediate action is the need of the hour.