The Evil of Dowry in Indian Society
‘Dowry’ may not be an alien word but the concept will certainly seem extra-terrestrial to those who are not familiar with the evils associated with this 5 letter word. My Indian society in particular is plagued by this phenomenon. Marriages are made in heaven as we say; but in India they are made and broken courtesy of ‘dowry’ given to grooms. The British were ‘kind’ enough to abolish the concept of ‘sati’ in the subcontinent but couldn’t root out the dowry system prevailing within the society.
The Indian Law of 1961 prohibits the practice of dowry and it is a punishable offense but in reality it exists and is practiced with fervor throughout India. Interestingly there is no prohibition on bestowing ‘gifts’ upon the bride or groom. Technically speaking these gifts are owned by the bride and in the event of an unfortunate divorce she is entitled to keep those gifts.
The reality though is that the ‘bride’ has been never actually able to retain possession of these items for they either depreciate to a negligible value or are sold by the ‘in-laws’ long before for any ‘special’ need that may have arisen during the course of the marriage. And trust me these needs often arise on a regular basis. Males in Indian society are considered bread earners and their birth is celebrated where as deaths are mourned.
On the contrary ‘women’ are considered mere objects of pleasure or ‘fertility clinics’ with the sole duty of giving birth and raising children. Therefore the majority of parents especially in rural areas think that by marrying their son to any woman; they are actually doing a favor to the ‘bride’s family.
A list of demands presented before the ‘bride’s family before marriage often includes a house or land, a suitable vehicle and gold ornaments. Some are audacious enough to ask for outright cash so that their ‘son’ could open up a business or some shop.
From a legal point of view they are considered as gifts to the bride but in fact they are provided so that the groom and his family may treat the girl with respect and she can live peacefully. For neutral observers this practice resembles to a ‘trade’ where security, comfort and a groom is being purchased at a reasonable price.
To add insult to injury; if the girl successfully fulfills all the demands still then her behavior is often kept under close watch and the slightest mistake of hers often puts her in deep trouble. Divorces are not taken lightly in Indian society and a divorced woman is considered ‘spoiled goods’ with no future. Therefore the bride’s family often goes out of their way to ensure that no bitter issues may arise due to lack of ‘dowry’. The laws exist on paper but in practice they are found nowhere.
It is more of a social issue than legal; education and mindsets are two important factors that need to be focused if the ‘dowry’ system is to be eradicated from our Indian society. Nevertheless all is not so gloomy; India is changing and some educated Indian families already recognize that ‘dowry’ is not only an unnecessary burden on the ‘bride’ and her family but it weakens the bond between husband and wife.