The System of Dowry
The system of dowry in our country has become a monstrous evil. The murdering of brides by their husbands and in-laws has become very common the country. These persons allege that the brides’ parents failed to give the dowry that had been promised by them. To escape punishment they tell the police that the deaths occurred due to some accident in the kitchen. Some women, unable to put up with the severe torture, commit suicide.
At first the system served an important purpose. Hindu Law did not entitle a daughter a share of the wealth belonging to her parents. It was, therefore, thought necessary to render some financial assistance to the bridegroom. It helped him to settle down. Then there was no bargaining either by the bridegroom or by his parents.
Now the situation has changed completely. In the marriage market, bridegrooms are auctioned! The rich want to marry their daughters to doctors, engineers and other, high-ranking government officers. As they have enough money, they can afford to give large sums- of money and jeweler to their daughters as dowry. But the poor cannot afford this. Countless families are mined. A man feels cursed and certainly burdened, if he has too many daughters. Very often, the greed for a big dowry makes even a highly educated young man marry a girl who is no match for him in intellectual accomplishments. The bridegroom may be an MR.C.P. or F.R.C.S. The bride may have barely completed school education, but she could ‘be the daughter of a plutocrat. If such a girl is married to a highly educated young man, he will have difficulty in getting proper contentment’ in his married life. This is due to the intellectual incompatibility existing between the husband and the wife. Money alone does not help to create happiness in life. Further, the young man’s parents may not feel at home in the company of his in-laws, who may be living in luxury.
The system of dowry is responsible for the discrimination against girls. Several parents consider them burdens. They are not given proper education. Nor are they properly fed. For many village girls life has become miserable. Very often, the task of looking after the younger children is given to them. Further, they have to toil in the kitchens.
Why does such a system exist in our country? The first and foremost reason is greed. A man who has no money is considered inferior. A large number of women in our country are illiterate. Such women have difficulty in getting any job. To improve their position, it is absolutely necessary to give proper education to them. Thus they can be made aware of their rights. After receiving education, they should try. To secure employment, which will help them to live without depending on others. An employed girl can easily enter into married life, but .an. unemployed girl is often left in the lurch. If no dowry is given, she will be constrained to remain a spinster. A few years ago, four sisters in a family in Kanpur committed suicide since their father had no money to give as dowry. Such cases are on the rise.
How can we do away with the system of dowry existing in our country? Social organizations, social workers and the Press must create strong public opinion against this evil. Young men, who are very poor, should enter into married life only when they-are financially sound and capable of looking after their wives and families. They must realize that it is disgraceful to live on the dowry given by their fathers-in-law. Efforts must also be made by the government to improve the financial position of the poor.
The giving and receiving of dowry is now a punishable offence. The amended Dowry Prohibition Act came into force on October 2, 1985, Gandhi Jayanti Day. There are several loopholes in this Act. For instance, the demand for dowry after a marriage does not come under the purview of this Act.
Dowry is deplorable because it can lead to impoverishment, humiliation, violence, misery and murder. The tradition, however, is unlikely to be shaken quickly because’ enough people want to retain it or see no way out of it.
Gandhiji once said that “any man who makes dowry a condition for marriage discredits his education and his country and dishonors womanhood. Young men who soil their fingers with such ill-gotten greed should be excommunicated from society”. But who has considered seriously this view of the Mahatma? The greater the qualification of the bridegroom, the larger the dowry. This is what we notice in our country.
The laws passed by Parliament for the welfare Of the women in our country are not properly implemented. We cannot brook the callous indifference and apathy shown by the authorities in this matter. On March 2, 1987, P.V. Narasimha Rao, when he was Human Resources Development Minister stated, that inspite of necessary legislation, “women have been lagging far behind” in their struggle for equal rights. At the same time, we admit that laws alone cannot wipe out this system of dowry. A thorough change in the attitude of the people is required.