Dowry – A Social Evil
“Any young man, who makes dowry a condition to marriage, discredits his education and his country and dishonours womanhood.”
- Mahatma Gandhi
India is one of the most religiously and ethnically diverse nation in the world, with some of the most deeply religious societies and cultures. There are many beliefs and rituals that people are following from a very long period of time and some of these rituals have changed into social evils, which include caste system, poverty, dowry system, gender discrimination, domestic violence, illiteracy etc. These social evils have made the progress of India go down. Nowadays people are not judged on the basis of their good qualities but on the basis of caste, gender, education, status, etc. The dominated mentality of some men still exists in the society and they always try to dominate the women. The social superstitions, blind beliefs and other backward customs not only create barriers but also destroy the hopes of women.
Dowry or Dahej is one of the deep rooted social evils which has become a barrier for women in leading a normal. Dowry system has become a social norm and it is a great problem for society and also for women. The dowry system is the evil which has killed and crippled many helpless women and has even forced women to end their lives. The dowry system is the oldest social malady or disease in Indian sub continent. It has become a serious disorder in society which is being deeply ingrained in the blood of people. Many people consider giving dowry as a symbol of social status and recognition for themselves.
The money, property or goods that the bride or her family pays to the groom in marriage is dowry. This custom has made the women as products, as the price of products is determined depending on quality of the product. The dowry system has destroyed morality, humanity and conscience of people. If the family of the bride does not pay the fixed amount of money to the groom’s family in time, the family of the groom starts torturing physically the helpless bride. Sometimes, the dowry greedy family tries to burn alive the ill-fated bride and sometimes they also throw acid on the bride. Due to the cruel dowry system, many women have lost their lives. The daughters of poor families suffer more than those of rich families. Poor parents are unable to meet the demands of the family of the groom.
Under section 3 of the dowry prohibition act, taking or giving dowry is a serious crime and illegal. Due to dowry system in Indian societies many other social evils have taken birth. Girl children are neglected, sex–selective abortion is also the main result of dowry system. Many parents don’t spend money to teach their girl child as they think they have to pay this money in the future when their daughter will get married. Though many people have opposed this system but yet it has spread its roots deep down in the society.
Some reported cases
A young 27 year old PhD scholar from Delhi committed suicide because her in–laws were not okay with her continuing studies. A flight attendant Anissa Batra from Delhi who jumped off her terrace, her parents say, was tortured emotionally for dowry. India has an alarming trend that sees 20 women die every day as a result of harassment over dowry, either murdered or compelled to commit suicide.
In the first month of year 2020, Bengaluru, the Silicon Valley of India, reported 17 cases of abuse and death of women for dowry. In one of the cases reported in January 2020, a few weeks after marriage, a husband demanded cash despite receiving 1 kg gold in dowry as per his demands. When the extra demand was denied, he burnt his wife.
In some cases, to escape the punishment by law, the husband and his family do not kill the woman directly but harass her mentally and physically forcing her to commit suicide. A similar case was reported in Kerala last year when a 27 year old woman was starved to death by her in-laws because their demand of two lakhs in dowry was not met with. National crime bureau of India during 2017 recorded nearly 700 dowry linked deaths. The number of cases filed under the Dowry Prohibition Act witnessed a rise from 690 in 2018 to 739 in 2019. The number had stood at 727 in 2017. The number of dowry deaths saw a jump from 48 in 2018 to 52 in 2019, though 2017, 2018 and 2019 saw an average of more than two cases a day.
The situation is no better in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Here also dowry deaths and harassments are reported with intervals. The menace of dowry has resulted into huge number of girls not being able to get married.
Dowry system is complete injustice with women and does not give women equal status in society. To eradicate this dowry system we have to educate our daughters, encourage them to have their own career, teach them to be independent, treat them equally without any discrimination and don’t encourage the practice of giving or taking dowry. Strict actions should be taken against people who demand dowry from their brides. Parents should guide their male children right from childhood not to demand dowry from their wives. Government should frame strict laws against dowry and the people who violate the laws should be punished. The educational institutes should organise conferences and seminars to aware the students about the menace of dowry system.
The writer can be reached at [email protected]