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Dowry - Tradition or Curse ?

The cultural institution of Dowry ( known as Dahej in Hindi) has existed in India for a very long time for various reasons. The practice of dowry, traditionally started, as a form of gift giving, by the bride's family to her in-laws and groom as a goodwill gesture. It was intended to protect the bride from poor future circumstances as it would finance her new family in times of unforeseen adversity.The gift mainly included cash, but items like furniture,livestock,household appliances and sometimes car or property were also given. In many parts of India, this system of dowry is not widely accepted but still there are many who practice it and believe that it is part of our Indian culture.

Today with increasing concern for women's rights and more awareness,dowry system has been criticized both in India and outside. Still the trend and figures are disturbing and remind us that a lot needs to be done.Young married women are particularly more vulnerable, whose marriages have been "arranged" by her family and she goes on to stay with her husband's family in their home.The situation is difficult for educated girls too, as they tend to look for a boy who has higher educational qualification than hers. More educated the boy is, more the demand for dowry is set.Instead of making the future secure of their daughters', dowry has now become a pressure practice to appease the groom's family and their ever growing demands.There are times when the amount is deemed insufficient by the groom's family, torture and cruelty is meted out to the girl, who is left isolated with no power to assert or break free. Despite severe criticism from all quarters of society, the dowry cases are on the rise in many villages and some of the progressive cities of India. In the months from January to June 2012, around 33 dowry cases have been reported from two cities of Hubli and Dharwad alone of West Bengal.In the year 2010,there were 8391 reported cases of dowry deaths in the country.That works out to a shocking one death every hour approximately. This rising trend is a huge concern as in year 2000,there were 6995 cases. According to a leading daily,as per the statistics, only 18% cases registered under dowry end up in conviction.

Although our Government has prohibited dowry through legislation in 1961,it was never implemented properly. In 1986, under huge pressure from the women's movement, the Indian Penal Code was amended to include section 304B, specifically against murder following harassment for dowry. Section 498A was added to define harassment and cruelty by husbands and his relatives. Still the problem remains at large at grassroots level and cities.

India's obsession with excessive wedding trumps and living up to the Big Fat Indian wedding dream comes at a price, sometimes too harsh and cruel.A paradigm shift in India's attitude towards weddings is urgently needed.From cities to districts to gram panchayats, there should be an independent, fair body of committee which would look into this matter on proactive basis and register complaints and act accordingly.Any pressure tactics applied by the groom's family on the girl,should be immediately reported to the authorities. Better public campaign and creating more awareness about the issue could lead to higher conviction rates in the country. Education, at home and school, for both boys and girls, highlighting the social evils of dowry and the need to say NO to such a practice, must be taught at all levels. We need to stop following outdated and irrelevant practices under the guise of "tradition" and "culture". If the fear of law is absent from the minds of citizens, then it is time to change that law. Stricter laws and harsher punishments should be the only way in dealing with such culprits. Women have to take a stand and stop suffering behind the closed doors. We all have to proactively take part in driving this menace out of our psyche, society and country.Unequivocally, we must all reject this practice.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Ending Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
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lobna sedky's picture

Faced by Indian women

Faced by Indian women something really difficult, and must be a law to be applied in a more serious.

Know here in Egypt is the man who pays the dowry for the bride, with increasing gold prices and price rises, and increasing requests for people bride dowry and Apartment and network, etc. of Mbarv, all unable man early marriage and remain combines price of the apartment and the network and pony until it reaches age 30 and over, This problem increases delayed marriage for girls and young Egyptian.

Mukut's picture

yes, the problem persists

Hello Friend, i completely agree with you. In my country, dowry gives rise to female infanticide too along with hosts of other problems. Law is unable to curb this 'social practice' which has become a menace in our society. More needs to be done.

Thank You so much for reading my post and commenting.

Mukut Ray

Mila's picture

Thank you

Hi Mukut,

Thank you so much for writing! I really found your writing interesting, informative, clear and organized. Have you personally been affected by the dowry system yet? What about your family or close friends? If so, your writing would be even better with a real example/story. Are there non-profits, NGOs working on this cause?

Please keep writing!

:) Mila

Mukut's picture

Dear Mila

Hello Mila,

Thank you so much for stopping by and for your encouraging words.

Personally i have been fortunate not to face such a situation but in my country there are many cases of dowry registered every day.Infact some of my friends have faced such a situation but they pretend it to be a normal affair and part of our tradition.

Sadly, women sometimes perpetuate crimes against them due to backward upbringing and societal pressure.

There are NGOs,government officials and police doing their bit but much more needs to be done.

Thank you for reading my post and i am sure by talking about it and spreading awareness,this crime can be stopped.

much love

Mukut Ray

Mila's picture

Thought of you

Hi Mukut,

I found this organization on one of my listservs and thought of you:

Now that I am more aware of the issues that the women of India are facing I am finding more organizations to support!


Kadidia's picture


Hello Mukut,

This situation is so sad and an actual violation of women's rights. In many parts of the world this system exists and it is almost like selling women. It might have been created at one point of history for specific reasons but nowadays it should not be necessary.

It shows one more time the discrimination towards women who are considered low-level individuals. For governments not to enforce laws is a sign that even the elected officials have not matured on this matter.
As a young educated woman, you may want to think about advocating about this issue.

I appreciate very much your testimony. If more Indian women could support you by participating to this platform maybe something will happen.

Kadidia Doumbia

Mukut's picture

Dear Kadidia

Dear friend,

I completely agree with you when you say that giving/accepting dowry is like selling women.It is shameful to admit that in my community, among my friends, i know many who have adhered to this practice by saying it is part of our culture.

Such outdated thinking both by men and women, needs to go.

Thank you so much for reading and sharing your precious thoughts on this. It is still a 'sensitive' issue in my country but by highlighting it, i am sure the perspectives would change.

Thank you again,
Much love,

Mukut Ray

Kabukabu Ikwueme's picture

The raised very important

You raised very important issues which I agree with. Thanks for sharing.

Mukut's picture

Most Welcome

Thank you once again dear friend for reading and commenting.
We need to create more awareness about the malaise and archaic traditions.

Much love,

Mukut Ray

Mukut's picture

Most Welcome

Thank you dear friend for reading and commenting.

Issues which undermine a woman's dignity,honor and safety are important.Awareness needs to be created against any such mores,archaic laws which stifle a woman's growth.

Much love,

Mukut Ray

Mukut's picture

Dearest Mila


Thank you for the link. I did go though their website and joined the campaign of '50 million missing'.

Much love,

Mukut Ray

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