Dowry System Essay
In this ultra fast and ultra modernized world, we people tend to return to the simple lifestyle for many reasons including getting longer and healthier life. We go on to eat natural instead of processed, follow the previously used practices of organic farming, and what not and what forth. But, today we are about to talk on such a topic or on such a practice, which we believe should not have been practiced then and not be done in the present too; Dowry.
Indian marriages are very religiously done. Astrologers first verify the 'kundali' of bride and groom and then only further talks are made. The whole family is engaged in one ritual or another 10 days previous to the day of marriage. Marriages are the connection of not only two persons but also of their families. From ancient times, 'kanyadaan' is and was understood to be the most religious duty performed by a father, as mentioned in the Sanskrit texts of Dharmashastras and Dharmasutras too.
Along with the daughter what is given by the bride's father, in material, cash or kind is said to be a dowry. Defined as a payment made by the bride's family, in property or money at the time of the tie, dowry is most widely practised in Asia, northern Africa, and some of the Balkan countries. Some also say it to be the transfer of the parent's property at the time of marriage, instead upon the demise of the parents. It is known differently in various regions or languages. In Urdu, it is known as jahez, and the same in Persian and Arabic. Dahez is what it is called in Hindi. It is known as daijo in Nepali, d?j in Punjabi. In Turkish, it is known as çeyiz. Bengalis call it is joutuk, jiazhuang in Mandarin. Tamil say it varadhachanai, malayalese call it streedhanam and miraz in Serbo-Croatian. In various parts of Africa as saduquat, serotwana, mugtaf or idana.
However, though practiced in many parts of the world the actual history of when it began is not known yet. The eyewitness reports suggest that dowry was not significant in ancient India, and it gained its significance in the twentieth century. A historian Michael Witzel claims, that the dowry practices, as stated in the ancient Indian literature were not significant during the Vedic period. Another named Kane, claims that the bride wealth or dowry as said was the only payment made in the asura type of wedding and was not accepted by Manu and others. Al Biruni a traveler to India says that the fourth part of her brothers' property is taken by the daughter at the time of marriage, as an inheritance amount. Further, she lacked any rights to her parent's income.
But, do not ever confuse dowry with Bride price and dower. The bride price is what is made by the groom's family to the bride or family. Whereas, the dower is the settlement of property in the bride's name made by the groom, at the utter time of marriage. The property under the dower remains in the sole control of the bride. Some understand that dowry is made for the financial security of the daughter by her parents, during her widowhood, or negligence of her husband or for the use of their grandchildren. We are in the twenty-first century and dowries are still expected and or somewhere demanded, before accepting wedding proposals. This happens mainly in the parts of the Balkans, Asia, and Northern Africa. It is not that dowries do not prevail in other parts of the world. Europe, South Asia and Africa too had a long backed history.
Dowries also result in violence in certain Asian countries, for a long back. The act of violence sometimes goes the extreme acts such as killings and acid attacks. Statistical reports say that one girl due as a victim to dowry every 17 minutes in our society. The societies which are extremely patrilineal are those which strongly pull the custom of dowry. Here the son is given greater social status than the daughter. Dowry has developed as one of the greatest social evils, despite the rapid globalization, liberalization and privatization. They demand dowry as if it is a fundamental right of the groom. This practice is so entrenched in our society as if it was a part of the beginning of human civilization. Although legally banned and condemned by the public, some social castes and categories, support the practice. The advantages, they say of the practice are as follows:
- They say that the material and money which the bride takes with her to her husband's place, help the just married couple settle their new beginning, establish a place of living and furnish it.
- However, it may sound weird though dowry makes the wedding of any girl with a comparatively dull face, uneducated and or aged easier. A suitable groom can be easily found by giving out a huge amount of dowry.
- It is also said that dowry helps the poor groom, for higher education.
- This becomes the reason, why it is still practised, that it raises the social status of the newly entered bride in the family. It is said that the girl gets the confidence to enter in law's house, gets more attention, and is given importance as a woman. Whereas, it is believed that, a girl feels uneasy and is subject to demoralization if she is not sent with a dowry.
- Dowries are said to help find a suitable groom of desired qualities from other castes, religions or states., if a suitable bride groom is not been able to be found for any girl.
- The supporters argue that dowry acts as a provident fund for the bride. Which she can use in any type of financially depriving conditions.
There are also disadvantages, as this practice has brought a lot of hard days to a huge number of people in society. In modern times the custom has developed as a social evil, due to its more disadvantages than advantages.
The sacred institution of marriage has certainly changed into a business model. Such as follows:-
- Giving out an honorable amount of dowry to daughters puts middle and lower-class families into a huge economic burden. Normally, these classes of society often do not possess much savings, due to constant expenses on maintaining a living. Thus, they either borrow money or sell or mortgage their property or valuables to give dowry. Hence Gandhiji once said that "One who makes dowry a precondition for his marriage, not only shows disrespect to women but also humiliates his own nation, education and womanhood and such young person's should be socially boycotted."
- A rise or increase in corruption among parents can be seen, to gather money. The acceptance of bribes, smuggling or using unfair means to earn can be seen among these. Thus, leading to the rise of corruption in the country in one way or another.
- As already said, marriage in India is highly religious and done with lots of customs and formalities. The bride's family gets financially drained in a marriage, and the major contribution is the dowry. It hence further lowers the living standard of the family.
- To reduce the burden on parents some girls tend to earn and hence enter into immoral practice. They get trapped in greed for higher earnings and get sexually cheated. Further, they get defamed and hence commit suicide.
- Girls also commit suicide due to repeated demands of dowry from their in-laws to their families.
- To not face future consequences of dowry, some families, are unwilling to spend on education and others. She is considered a liability. And hence she is not allowed to pursue higher education. Resulting in the status of the females being low as always.
- The other reason for not giving her an education as, if she is highly educated, she needed to be found with a similar or higher educated boy. And it is understood that highly educated boys ask for a higher amount of dowry.
- Domestic violence takes place many times in the name of dowry. The various type of dowry crimes includes fraud, cruelty, domestic violence, abetment to suicide, dowry murder and others.
- Dowry can develop an inferiority complex in women. The boy who received a dowry gets proud of himself and thinks of himself as dignified with high status and comparatively more prestige than what the girl receives.
- Some greedy boys also practice polygamy in order to receive monetary benefits. This straight away reduces the status of women.
- Female infanticide and female feticide are practiced by poor families, which led to the sex ratio of the society getting imbalanced.
- Psychological stress gets on the parents and the daughters due to dowry, and if the tie gets separated due to dowry. The parents of the daughter constantly remain in the work to settle money for the marriage of their daughter.
- Some girls are also forced to be spinsters throughout their lives. This forceful suppression of the urge for sex may make them suffer emotional problems and or neurotic diseases.
- Just for getting much dowry, parents fix marriages without consulting their sons and end in unstableness in their married life.
There is a need for both legislative and non-legislative measures to take out the practice of dowry from our society.
- Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961:- This law gives penalty under section 3, to any person involved directly or indirectly in giving, taking, abetting, or receiving dowry. It is sanctioned by the parliament and under sections, 304B and 498A of the Indian Penal Code, has from long back forbidden dowry payment. This act of 1961 defines dowry as follows - "Dowry means any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly - (a) by one party in a marriage to the other party in marriage; or (b) by the parents of either party to a marriage or by any other person to either party to the marriage or any other persons; at or before or after the marriage as consideration for the marriage of the said parties, but does not include dower or mahr in the case of persons to whom the Muslim Personal law applies."
- Moreover, there are certain sections of the Indian Penal Code (Section 304, Section 302, Section 406, Section 498A), Criminal Procedure Code, and the Evidence Act (113B, 113A), which were amended and inserted Dowry as a punishable offence.
- Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005:- It was passed in order to give women protection from domestic violence through civil law. The remedies under this Domestic Violence Act include custody orders, residence orders, compensation orders, protection orders and others.
- Although international law to fight against dowry deaths is not used due to non-intervention and cultural relativism, there are certain instruments which can provide remedies to the problems of dowry and connection. Those international conventions include the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and others.
The ineffectiveness of the dowry laws has prevailed for decades. The police or the court do not efficiently use the great power given through the laws. Dowry is still practiced, using a different name, in closed walls. Despite the decades back made laws, the government's efforts do not suffice as domestic violence, dowry deaths, murders, and harassment still continue to happen without any fear of the law.
Women's groups criticize that the Dowry harassment laws are unable to carry the load of the demand. Also, due to tolerating and enduring nature of the Indian women, they are afraid to take action against their husbands. Even if any brave women take a step forward, the victim and her family cannot prove the crime as there is no witness.
Let us take end on a positive note. Change is happening, though, at a slower pace, it has been initiated. In a study conducted by Rao in 1980, 40% of them considered their parents to expect dowry, and 75% of students responded to the lesser significance of dowry to the marriage.