Here is your essay on Dowry System in India
Dowry is derived from the ancient Hindu customs of ‘kanyadan’ and ‘stridhan’. In ‘kanyadan’, the father of the bride offers the father of the groom money or property, etc whereas for ‘stridhan’, the bride 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 done voluntarily and out of affection and love.
The Hindu marriage system is sacramental. According to this system, a marriage is forever and there is no scope for a separation. Among the various ceremonies previously practiced, the ceremony in front of a ‘godly’ fire (‘Yajna’ in Sanskrit) has taken over, the old-fashioned system of marrying a wife by capture.
This form of marriage began the practice of dowry, where originally, the family of the bride would accept gifts and money from the groom’s family as an alternative to bloodshed during the capture of the bride. A later modification of this system has paved way for the present dowry system primarily practiced by the society.
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The dowry custom continues to rule our society. In majority of Indian families, the boy has legacy rights, while the girl is given a large sum at the time of her marriage in lieu of the government regulated equal rights for girls in parental property. Thus, dowry system has spread in almost all parts of the country and sections of society.
There are several reasons for the occurrence of the dowry system, but the main one is that it is a necessary precondition for marriage. ‘No dowry, no marriage’ is a widespread fear. There has also been an appearance of a feudal mindset with a materialistic attitude in a new globalised economy.
The price tag for the groom is now bigger and bolder. The emergence of an affluent middle class, the torchbearer of social change in modern India, is the main factor for the continuation of the dowry system.
Families arrange most marriages, and a man who does not marry for love; he can marry for wealth. For this man and his family, a woman becomes the ticket to shortcut riches through the system of dowry.
There are a number of things people desire to have in their own houses but cannot afford; they use the opportunity of a son’s marriage to get them. The girl’s parents do not protest against variety, as they regard the union as a stepping-stone towards higher social status and better matches for the remaining children.
Dowry as a phenomenon has gone beyond the ritual of marriage. Pregnancy, childbirth and all kinds of religious and family functions are occasions when such demands are made. A more sophisticated public image of an extended gifting session has replaced the old system.
Now there is demand for receptions in marriage places. The trousseau includes designer wear for the bride and groom’s family. Chefs are flown in for multi-cuisine wedding dinners. The bride’s family usually pays for all this.
The rich revel in the exchange of their black money, 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.
It is them who are the worst sufferers because dowry is most often a monetary agreement between two men – the bride’s father and the groom. Caste-based practices have only added fuel to the fire. Marriages in political families are arranged to consolidate the caste base for support in electoral politics, so
they do not challenge the dowry system. 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. 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 and more women are killed every year in India for dowry. Bihar and Uttar Pradesh still record the maximum number of dowry crimes, but Bangalore, India’s 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.
The Dowry Prohibition Act, in force since 1st July 1961, was passed with the purpose of prohibiting the demanding, giving and taking of dowry.
In 1980, the Government setup a committee that recommended amendments in the Dowry Prohibition Act and also suggested expanding the definition of dowry and instituting family courts and National Commission for women. Many parliamentary debates led to some amendments in 1983,1984 and 1986.
To stop the offences of cruelty by husband or his relatives on the wife, Section 498-A was added in the Indian Penal Code and Section 198-A in the Criminal Procedure Code in the year 1983.
The Dowry Prohibition Act clearly stipulates that a person who gives or takes or helps in the giving or taking of dowry can be sentenced to jail for 5 years and fined Rs. 15,000/- or the amount of the value of dowry, whichever is more.
The Act also prohibits the giving and taking directly or indirectly any property or valuable security, any amount either in cash of kind, jewelry, articles, properties, etc. in respect of a marriage.
The control is provided by stating a limit and names of people gifting and their relationship to the married couple to be signed by both sides of parents.
In 1986, the Act was amended again, empowering State governments to appoint Dowry Prohibition Officers, who not only had a preventive role but also had powers to collect evidence against people who took dowry.
Despite protest by women’s organisations, serious activism, legal amendments, special police cells for women, media support and heightened awareness of dowry being a crime, the practice continues unabated on a massive scale. Despite every stigma, dowry continues to be the signature of marriage.
Women need real social, political, financial and moral support in their fight against the system. They have to be empowered so that they can take their decisions about their own life by refusing the dowry system.
THE DOWRY SYSTEM
THE CURSE OF DOWRY
Essay No. 01
‘Dowry’ according to the dictionary, means the property which a woman brings to her husband at the time of her marriage. Originally, it must have meant property represented by the voluntary gifts given to the girl by her parents, relatives and friends out of love and affection, at the time of her marriage. May be these gifts were given to the girl in order to enable her to set up a new home out of a sense of social responsibility. The system of dowry must be as old as the institution of marriage itself. It must also have been a universal practice. Every father wants to give some presents to his daughter when she is leaving his home for good and starting life afresh. There is nothing unusual, bad abnormal about it.
But as time passed, the system degenerated into an evil custom. It came to be looked upon as an evil and a curse. The dowry became an all- important and a primary factor in marriage. It became necessary for the parents of the girl to give a good dowry to her whether they could afford it or not. Worse still, the married life of a girl came to depend upon dowry. Marriage became impossible in the absence of a handsome dowry. Several girls, whose parents could not afford a good dowry, had to commit suicide as their greedy in-laws made their lives miserable. Newspapers are full of reports carrying harrowing tales of brides being burnt to death or driven to hang themselves because of constant nagging by their in laws. Some of the step-daughters of fortune choose the hangman’s noose while others consume poison or jump down the multi-storeyed buildings to deliver themselves from the clutches of the inhuman dowry seekers.
It is really tragic that in the progressive world of today, the evil of dowry continues to exist in all its horrid forms. Many homes are broken and several families are driven to ruin only because they are too poor to afford a rich dowry. Previously, in the selection of a bribe, her family background, education and her intrinsic worth used to be the primary consideration. Now, dowry is the first and the only consideration in a majority of the matrimonial alliances. As a result, dowry, which was at one time a token of love and affection, has become a cause of oppression and exploitation of the worst order.
Some parents have to incur heavy debts for giving dowry. At times, they remain under debt for the whole of their life. Sometimes, the girl’s parents fill to raise the necessary funds for marriage. They are compelled to commit suicide in disgust and despair. No wonder, therefore, that the birth of a daughter is looked upon as a bolt from the blue.
In the recent past, the Government of India and many states have taken some anti-dowry steps. In some states, dowry has been made a cognizable offence. But legal steps are not enough. We have to create a social climate which does not favour giving and taking of dowry. Dowry seekers must be singled out and condemned. The Government should implement the anti-dowry bill strictly in the right spirit Nobody, however highly placed, should be allowed to violate the law. Expenses at the marriage celebrations should be cut down. Needy married couples should be given loans and grants to help them set up their homes. They can be asked to refund these loans in easy installments. Voluntary social service organizations and religious heads should encourage dowryless marriages in large numbers. Girls should come forward to raise a banner of revolt against the dowry seekers. They should refuse to marry such boys as expect a dowry.
There is another dimension to the anti-dowry act promulgated by the government. This law is being exploited by some girls or their parents to blackmail the boys or their families after marriage. On threat of charge of prosecution for asking for dowry, husbands are being forced to shell out huge sums of money to get a divorce. This practice must be looked into and steps should be taken to see that no family is unnecessarily harassed or exploited. Divorce should be made easier to obtain. Boys and girls should both be given equal rights in the matter of obtaining a divorce.
In order to root out the evil of dowry from the society, we shall have to build up a strong public opinion against it. Boys and girls in schools and colleges should be made to take a pledge that they would neither seek nor give dowry. They should be educated through films, television plays and talks, slides camps, lectures and radio talks. Such boys as refuse to accept dowry in their marriages should be honoured in public. If we succeed in removing the evil of dowry, it will be really a praiseworthy achievement.
Essay No. 02
The dowry system is an age old system and a peculiar phenomenon of the Indian society. It is, as today, a curse to the society.
Dowry is the name given to all that, the parents of a girl give to her when she gets married. At the face of it, the system seems quite appropriate, healthy and logical, for in this simple way, the parents of the girl help her in setting a new home. So far, so good and, originally also the purpose of dowry was very justified and understandable.
Let us now analyze how and why this system took birth at all? In the earlier times of Indian society, the daughter had no share in the father’s property so, by way of dowry the girl would get at least some portion of her share. Besides this, in those days, the girls were not educated so, this dowry could serve the girl as a back up support system in case of any emergency after her marriage. Seeing this as the ground reality and the reason for the system for having taken birth, no right thinking people would call the system wrong or unjustified. However, with the passage of time this same fine system has taken the ugly shape of begging for dowry, bargaining for dowry, auctioning the boy to the highest bidder and finally suicides. This is because, taking advantage of the system, the parents of the boys, have Started demanding dowry. This was never done in the original shape of the system. The girl’s parents would give whatever they could and, there would be NO – yes, No demands from the boy’s side. Besides demanding items of dowry, now parents of the boy’s family keep items of the dowry for their own use. This was also not in the original system for, whatever was given was for the girl only- and never for the boy’s family. These two additions in the original system have converted the blessing for the girl into a curse for her. The parents who cannot afford to meet the demands of the boy’s family are forced either into taking loans that they can never return, or use unfair means of corruption to make money to meet the demanded expenses In turn, this has led to even committing suicides by the girls murders of girls by the in-laws. At times even before the marriage, the girl is led to kill herself to save her parents from the trauma of collecting money for her marriage.
Thus, we see that, a system that was at one time very wise and discreet, has taken an ugly shape just because of the deed of men and women in today’s world. This system of dowry has become a slur on the Indian society. Besides being a shame, in today’s scenario, the system as it was even in the initial stages of its existence, has become quite irrelevant. This is because, both the reasons for its birth are now not in vogue. These days, girls are usually educated and can earn a livelihood if need arises, and, they now also have a share, an equal share as the brothers have in the father’s property. That means the necessity of the girl having an amount to reach out in the days of crisis or emergency does not hold good any more. So, when the very basis of the system does not exist, the system should be scrapped altogether. This is because; the system instead of bringing solace, only generates greed and even crime in several cases
My view is that, the system as it exists should be put to an end and all those who indulge in it should be punished severely.
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