Marriage is a source of joy and festivities, an integral part of society and a new beginning. Yet, one of the oldest evil related to marriage from a girl’s point of view in the Indian culture is the Dowry System. A lot is being done and said against this heinous act, but it still exists in the present century. The root of this social cruelty against women comes from the evil deeds of the male dominance in our country.
The dowry system started in the Vedic period that only began as a formal ritual for marriage. In various Hindu weddings, Kanyadan plays a vital role where the bride gives something either in kind or cash to the groom’s family. This act is mentioned in Dharmasasthra and Kanyadan remains incomplete until the groom is given some Dakshina. At those times it was a voluntary act and was not a compulsion for marriage. In due course of time, Vardakshina has disappeared and dowry has changed into a greedy monster and constantly in search of hapless feminine gender.
The Reasons for Dowry System
Financial stability, social standing, compensating for groom’s education are the demands that need to be fulfilled by the bride’s side. High requirements are put forward and need to be met with silence. The groom’s family threatens to withdraw the proposal which creates fear among the girl’s family. They readily accept the boy’s demand fearing loss of respect in the society. Due to the patriarchal structure in the society where women are considered fit for only household chores, these perceptions are prevalent as they are a burden in the family finances.
Marriage customs in the society for finding a perfect groom contributes toward the dowry system. A groom needs to be seen from same religious backgrounds which in turn prohibit suitable matches. Boys with proper qualifications become an asset and encourage the practice of dowry to get a top bidder. Other social constraints like social status and caste system are also imposed. While finding a match, clan exogamy and caste endogamy are still prevalent in today’s time. These limitations led to the depletion of right husbands and led to the consequences to demand dowry.
The inferior status associated with women in our society and being treated as mere commodities not only by the woman themselves but also by their families. When marriage is the ultimate destiny for women, evil acts like dowry will have severe consequences in the society. Lack of proper education is one of the primary factors for this heinous act. Due to some superstitions, a large percentage of girls are kept off from schools or other beliefs that giving the girls good education will reduce their responsibility as good wives.
Many people across the country follow and value their customs and traditions blindly without objecting the consequences as it is the norm followed by generations. Dowry is a means of social stature in India. The worth of a family is measured by the money spent or how much gold one gives to them. The groom’s family stature gets increased by the amount of dowry given the girl’s side which is an indicator that how much demands the men have in the marriage business.
The Effects of Dowry System
Dowry bears a financial burden for the girl’s family. This thinking led to feticides and infanticides of a girl child. Girls are entrusted to do household chores from an early age instead of providing them proper education as compared to boys. Many instructions are imposed on the girls in the name of family honor and are restricted to stay at the home. The child marriages are still prevalent as there is a belief that age is measured as an index of purity.
Another belief is that young girls can be good housewives rather than older ones. Dowry is a never-ending process and the boy’s family forces them to meet their unscrupulous demands. Deaths, mental and physical torture, verbal abuse are common if the bride’s family does not meet the requirements. This lead to depression and many women commit suicide. 2016 data shows that in India, 20 women lose their lives on a daily basis due to various dowry-related problems.
In a country like India where men have been ruling the society for centuries, it is difficult for a woman to maintain high self-esteem in the society. Naturally, women believe themselves that they are a burden in the society and are incapable for contribution. They lose their self-worth and become victims in the community.
Solutions for Eradicating the Evil Act- The Dowry System
Several laws were launched for providing justice to the women. On 20th May 1961, the Dowry Prohibition Act was passed which states that accepting dowry concerning property, jewelry and cash are unlawful and one could be penalized who is giving the dowry. Fine of fifteen thousand rupees and a minimum imprisonment of five years are imposed if someone is making demands for dowry. In the Indian Evidence Act, Section 113A states that bride’s family can charge the groom’s family for forcing their daughter to suicide within seven years from the date of marriage.
Just amending different sections and introducing acts are not enough for fighting against this social evil. Although the charges made by the bride’s family are taken seriously, lack of correct investigative procedures leads to the accused free from guilt. Both central and state governments must follow a zero-tolerance policy so that the innocent families are not victimized by the cruel people of the society.
Education of the girl child is of utmost importance. The government has taken an essential step in launching the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign. It is started in the remotest districts of our country where the child sex ratio is less as compared to the developed areas. One should know the legal provision against dowry act which will boost the confidence for the girl’s family. Self-dependence is very much required in this fast-paced society and it can be achieved through proper education. Knowledge of the fundamental rights of the Constitution will enable a girl to fight for their self and speak against ongoing marginalization. With adequate education, a girl can establish herself in the patriarchal society and not view marriage as the redemption.