In Indian culture, the bride's family gives the bridegroom's family dowry, also known as "Dahej," in exchange for the bride, also referred to as "Kanyadan," either in cash or in kind.
Another definition of "Dowry" is when the bride's parents are compelled to enter into a forced financial and material agreement with the groom's parents or the bridegroom himself as a mandatory condition of the marriage.
Dowry emerges as the first and most critical issue for women in our society as a societal challenge among all the domestic violence against women. Nowadays, dowry negotiations are nearly always direct and public throughout the entire country.
Demands for additional dowry are frequently met with resistance from the bride's family, leading to severe abuse, mental torture, taunting, and harassment of the young bride which frequently results in her murder or suicide. This is the main cause of people's depression when a girl is born. It has also become very frequent for the bride to commit suicide in order to save her family from further dignity.
The concept of dowry is not new; it is mentioned as an ancient custom in some of the earliest records, including the Code of Hammurabi from ancient Babylon. Typically, daughters did not receive any inheritance from their fathers. Instead, her parents gave them a dowry in exchange for the marriage, which was meant to provide the bride with as much lifetime security as her family could afford.
The history of dowries extends across the globe, including Europe, Africa, South Asia, and other regions. They are especially common in civilizations where there is a male-dominant structure and where it is expected that women live with or near their husband's families.
The Notion of the Dowry varies according to Religion
In the Muslim religion, dower and dowry are completely different concepts as the dower is acceptable, but the dowry is not. In the Muslim culture, the dower is crucial to marriage relationships. All Muslims agree that a Muslim woman's right to receive a dower from her husband is a fundamental one as a sign of respect, it could come in the form of cash or real estate that is handed to the wife.
Early Hindu society did not commonly practice the dower system, although wealthy and royal families did occasionally present the bridegroom with gifts at the time of the wedding. Dowries were offered by the wealthy during the Vedic era to entice good husbands for their daughters.
Dowry is a clear rejection of Christian marriage ideals. According to the Christian perspective, marriage is based on love. However, dowry is frequently the first topic of conversation when considering marriage in Indian culture nowadays in some parts of India. Dowry has caused the marriage to lose its purpose and reduce to little more than a business transaction.
The purpose of the dowry system
One of the main goals of a dowry has traditionally been to provide some form of protection for the bride against the very real risk of being mistreated by her husband and his family. The value of a dowry is influenced by culture as well as elements like class and money. Due to several factors, including greed, unrealistic expectations, a lack of willingness to follow the law, and occasionally societal customs and traditions, the bride's family may demand a dowry. For their daughter's future security or in some cases when the bride is less educated than the groom, parents would also readily provide dowries to brides.
Law for Dowry in India
Dowry in our society is definitely a social threat. Many cases are appearing before the courts of law despite strict legislation and often enforced penalties by the courts.
Under the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, dowry harassment is punishable by fines:
According to Section 3, anyone who accepts or distributes dowry is subject to a minimum 5-year sentence in prison, either with or without a fine.
According to Section 4 the offender who even makes a dowry demand is subject to a 5-year prison sentence, with or without a fine.
According to Section 8 of the Dowry Act, this is a cognizable and non-bailable offense.
Under the Indian Penal Code of 1980, dowry harassment is punishable by a fine:
According to Section 304(B), the offender who caused the woman's death, purportedly for dowry purposes, is subject to a prison sentence ranging from 7 years to a lifetime.
According to Section 498 (A), the perpetrator of the harassment and cruelty toward the woman is subject to a fine or a sentence of up to three years in jail.
Since women have a significant societal impact, they have to combat this deep-rooted social immoral in our society and help other women who are doing the same. The way forward for curbing the dowry system is through women's empowerment, education, gender equality, social awareness, and launching mass media campaigns, all of which may result in a transformation in societal perceptions.