Let’s fight the evils of dowry

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To save the dignity and honour of our daughters, the menace is to be done away with

Saima Tabasum

Our society stands on various physical and material aspects, where the matrimony or civil union is a pillar of our social life. This pious union has, however, been poisoned by the dowry system. Despite various laws this system is prevailing in our society. We all are aware about the ”Stre-dhan” in past times. These were the gifts and clothes etc given to the daughter out of love by her parents. However, the present dowry system is the wealth demand by the in-laws of the girl at the time or after marriage. This evil custom is against the decorum of women. This is indirect way of extortion to get cash and other lavish gifts from the family of the bride. Some families even get ruined by fulfilling the demands of chosen groom. People not getting proper wealth from the the side of bride, humiliate the women and even sometimes kill them. In some cases parents kill their own daughters if they are not in a position to marry off their daughters for not having enough wealth to fulfil the demands of dowry.

Dowry system in Indian society is not an exception but it’s found in other parts of the world as well slightly in different forms. Let us recall a brief history of this dowry system of India. During Ancient period, the status of women was high. She could take part in assemblies like sabhas and simities. Even many historians have written about the same. In 11th century  Alberuni’s writings give us insight about the social structure of Indian society . He had mentioned that there was no dowry system and no gifts from bride’s parents to groom’s side in Indian sub continent, instead grooms side used to give some gifts to the would be bride. Same is the case with the Indian history of many Greek historians, as they had found no dowry system here. In Ancient period, woman was having a good status and position and many social evils were absent. Woman had property rights she could inherit parents property without any hurdle. But gradually with the time, the status of the women started degrading and declining.

After 16th century, there were limited property rights of women unlike earlier. They could not inherit their equal share of property. So with this change, parents started to give some gifts to their draughters on their wedding as a token of love and to give them some part of their wealth in this form only. This is where dowry system was born. It has a nobel origin but we the people of modern era have made it a social evil and a death trap for girls in our society. So problem does not lie with the custom itself but with the people and their mentality. Nowadays, dowry is treated as a symbol of social prestige and status.

The more successful the groom, the more is the dowry taken in the marriage. Problem is not only with one side, the bride’s side is also at fault. In earlier times, parents used to give it as a symbol of love for their attachment with their daughter and dowry used to be few things for brides personal use so that she could live comfortably in her new home but nowadays, people think that their daughter would be called a high society girl and her status would be weighed with the amount of dowry. It has become more a show-off than the nobel gesture it used to be. In the recent past, we have seen many dowry deaths, be it in Bandipora case, in which mother of two ended her life due to unlimited dowry demands or be it Ayesha’s case, who was fed up of fulfilling her husband’s demands ended her life. No doubt, marriage is an important and necessary stage for every girl but please keep the doors open for your daughters so that they can think twice before taking any extreme step.

It is the youth, who can change this scenario from getting worse. We need to make a difference, we need to say no to the dowry system. Dark reality of our society is that we call ourselves modern but still prefer sons over daughters and in most of the families women are not allowed to work in their chosen field. Our education system too has failed to change peoples’ mindset as we see dowry deaths mostly in high educated families. Most of the cases are from middle class and upper middle class families who are well qualified. We lack support system for such victims as nothing is more scary than people around them being silent.

Having studied many cases, I must say that women are left helpless and whenever a beloved daughter comes to the forefront raising her voice, we became judgmental. We presume and assume many things. Whenever she complains about the in-laws she is asked to show more patience without extending a hand to hold. We have many laws for dowry deaths such as section 304 IPC but these laws need to be implemented in letter and spirit. We have ministry of women and child development and it has started many programs for women. But there is lot more to do to save women from being such victims.

We should make all the people aware about the existing laws. We should help make our girls psychologically strong and emotionally stable. We should make them financially independent. There is need of adding values in our education system. Youth are the change agents we need to make them understand about the consequences of these social evils. Girls should be given full support to study for their dream jobs. Religious preachers have a responsibility to work on this issue, to make public aware about the love a woman deserves and also make husbands understand their duties and responsibilities towards their wives.

The issue of dowry has been legally dealt with  by law passed on May 21, 1961 (Dowry prohibition act) but we need to enforce such laws. We need to launch public campaigns to make people aware about the effects of this evil custom and law against this system. We should also promote good education for women and should make them economically independent. Our nation must be clean and clear and it is our duty to keep away such unhealthy habits and customs like dowry, which have contaminated our nation. Man must respect women and fight for her safety and decorum, because she is the one he is born from. The laws framed in response of this grave injustice against womenfolk lack in implementation. The awareness of women in this direction could be a game changer. Herein lies the space for civil society to engage the individual women to make them aware about their rights. The great proponent of social justice Raja Ramohan Roy used to say “Change must begin from society itself.”  Laws, rules and regulations run subsidiary to social initiatives ipso facto. Unless and until we as individual men are women say no to the evil of dowry in our personal lives, no one from Mars would come to change the system.

  • Writer, hailing from Ganderbal, is pursuing her Masters in Public Administration and can be reached at [email protected]

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