Marriage as a social institution is recognized as a civilized social order where two individuals, capable of entering into the union, have pledged themselves to the institutional norms and values and promised to each other a very strong bond to sustain and maintain the marital obligation. Despite all the promises made at different occasions of marriage ceremony that the individual incompatibilities and attitudinal differences for non-adjustment or refusal for adjustment may come to an end, but certain circumstances occurred where the husbands and his families demand i.e. Dowry which is not fulfilled and sometimes a perverted sense of revenge occurred.
A dowry is a transfer of parental property, gifts, or money at the marriage of a daughter (bride). Dowry is a payment of cash or gifts from the bride’s family to the groom’s family upon marriage.
The Status of Women in Ancient Indian Society
We have the ancient scriptures which talk about women with such high respect. We only hear about Swayamvar in the ancient Hindu marriage traditions where it was the bride who decided whom to marry. There was no Swayam Vadhu, the groom could not hold beauty contests to decide which bride to marry. Instead it was the girl who in a Swayamvar, would put all the competing potential bridegrooms to different contests and then select the bridegroom whom she liked. In the Swayamvar of Sita in Ramayana, Rama had to lift the Shiva’s bow to prove that he was eligible to marry Sita. In the Swayamvar in Mahabharat, Arjuna had to hit the eye of the fish rotating above by only looking at the fish’s reflection in a pool of oil below.
So if this was the importance given to women in our tradition, then when and where did this contradiction of the menace of dowry enter our society? We don’t find any instances of dowry related violence in the literature of ancient times. Not even in the literature belonging to the pre-colonial era of India. So when did the Indian society adopt the evil version of dowry which has created numerous social problems in the Indian society ranging from female foeticide, violence on married women, financial stress on parents of girl child, imbalance in male-female ratio, broken marriages, mistrust between families, etc.
The custom of dowry is deep-rooted in Indian society over the years, it has turned into a social peril, too entrenched and devilish to be tackled by reformers and law-makers. Though the efforts for the eradication of the dowry practise go back to more than a century, it has perhaps become the most alarming social issue during the last two decades or so as manifested by the growing violence against women emerging from matters relating to dowry. It is generally understood that dowry, in its original form, was not based on greed and extortion as it quite often the case today but present a token of love and regard for the bridegroom. The term Varadakshina, mentioned in the Hindu Shastras, was a Dakshina of a purely voluntary nature without which the meritorious act of Kanyadaan would not be complete. The role of the bride’s parents was to provide security and compensation for inheritance rights to the daughter in order to enable her to lead a dignified and harmonious relationship with her husband and his family.
Dowry death basically means bride’s suicide or killing a bride by her husband or by family members after the marriage because of dissatisfaction with the dowry. Dowry is a matter of concern nowadays in India as most of the bride die because of dowry as her father and family members unable to fulfill the demand.
In last 5 years as many as 715 cases of dowry death has been reported in national capital and crime rate has been increasing in every passing year. According to the Indian National Crime Records Bureau every day at least 20 women become a victim of dowry death and the annual figures go well above 7000 deaths. As per experts several cases are not reported and the actual death could be three or four times the official statistics.
As the number of cases are rapidly increasing the act for the prohibition of dowry was made in 1961. “ DOWRY PROHIBITION ACT 1961”. This act prohibits the payment or acceptance of a dowry as consideration of marriage . after the enforcement of this act dowry becomes illegal in India .
The brutal reality of the dowry system is not the story of rural areas only. Even the educated family sitting in metropolitan cities like Delhi and Bangalore is harassing a woman for not bringing enough gold or money. Bengaluru, the silicon valley of India, reported 17 cases of abuse and death of women for dowry in 2020.
Ample opportunity has already past that we need an adjustment in the mentality and demeanor of the individuals about dowry . Teaching youngsters since the beginning about the significance of gender equality could be an important beginning toward that path. We should treat our girls similarly with no segregation. Teach and urge young ladies to seek after a vocation of their choice as opposed to giving immense dowry . This is the best blessing any parent can give their daughter . Make mindfulness among young ladies to imagine that they would not permit their folks to languish tremendous obligations over their marriage. Youngsters should take a choice that they would not live on target of another people efforts and furthermore take choice not to become marketable products sold by their parents.
Why The Dowry System Is Still Prevalent
We are in 2020. Dowry system was abolished in 1961 in India. The reason for the prevalence of this custom is the patriarchal society that values men over women. In India boys have a rate card in many societies. This is the unofficial price the boy is worth. And that worth is measured by the amount of dowry a boy will get upon marriage. The stronghold of the gender inequality in Indian society makes a bride’s family feel obliged to meet the dowry demands of the man who has ‘agreed’ to take care of the daughter. The second major reason is that the dowry system is too deeply rooted in the Indian culture that it is seen as normal and unchangeable. Even today, if people are reminded that dowry is a crime, they ignore it as an alternate reality which cannot change the age-old customs. Many educated families practice it, willingly or unwillingly, to avoid being criticized for not following the customs. After all who will dare to change the traditions? The third and most important reason is the dominance of the institution of marriage. A woman’s marriage is of the paramount importance in Indian families. If a woman’s marriage requires dowry in return of her secured married life which is a challenge in the world that is unsafe and discriminatory for women, it is never seen as a crime.
Any young man, who makes dowry a condition to marriage, discredits his education and his country and dishonours womanhood.-mahatma gandhi
Dowry death is a social curse which is a burning issue in Indian society. Organized approach by women welfare organizations, police, public servants and judiciary by applying deterrent punishment for dowry deaths culprit. It can be observed that government of India along with Indian judiciary makes co-operative and supportive law to safeguard the life interest and dignity of women and provide further justice to the victim of harassment or cruelty by husband and his relatives. Change in education system led to an improvement in the education status of female and door to door employment service will lesser down dowry deaths. Still, certain corrective measures need to adopt to eradicate or at least curb this social menace of dowry death, but most importantly it needs a public will and commitment to shun away materialistic greed of dowry demands.
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