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.