Dowry: A Major Evil

Published On: 21st March, 2024

Authored By: Suhani Rai
Christ University, Delhi

Abstract

In many developing nations today, payments between families at the time of marriage are a common practice, having existed throughout the history of the majority of industrialized nations. The money paid for marriages has changed throughout time in societies: at certain points, it has increased dramatically; at other times, it has moved from the groom to the bride and vice versa; and occasionally, the property rights over these payments alternate between the couples being married and their parents. The court has the authority to intervene with a mandamus to order the stringent and efficient implementation of legislation, such as the Dowry Prohibition Act, when the executive fails to carry it out as intended to address a societal issue. Additionally, it is mandated that the state and federal governments of India implement comprehensive anti-dowry literacy campaigns through newspapers, television, and Lok Adalat.

KEYWORDS: Dowry Prohibition Act, Societal Issue, Anti-Dowry Literacy

WHAT IS DOWRY?

The term “dowry” refers to an age-old practice in which the bride gives an item of value or anything of monetary worth to their future husband. The word “dowry” originated from the Latin “dotarium,” which eventually became the English word “dowry.” The threat of dowry practice has turned into a social issue that has led to instances of female feticide, child marriages, marital strife, physical and emotional abuse of the bride, and oppression of women. The educated, wealthy segment of the community also contributes to the continued use of the dower system. The Act was created with the intention of prohibiting the practice of paying or receiving dowries, along with the associated penalties. Originally, the word “dowry” only referred to the requirement of funds prior to marriage.

Dowry is defined as property or valuable security given or agreed to be given in accordance with the provisions of SECTION 2 DOWRY PROHIBITION ACT[1]” if it is given: 1. by one party to the marriage to the other party; 2. by the parents of either party to the marriage or by any other person, to either party or any other person; at any time before or after the marriage in connection with the marriage of said parties; but it does not include dower or mahr in the case of individuals to whom the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) applies.

History and Eradication

In the past, the term “dowry” referred to the items a woman presented to her spouse at marriage, as well as the marital part. Perhaps because most systems saw a married woman as an addition to her husband’s household, it was thought of as a security or nest egg for the wife in her married home. However, with time, marriage took on a new form and degraded into a matter of barter, wherein a woman’s acceptance as a wife was conditional upon her parents’ ability to pay a dowry, which varied according to the bridegroom’s family’s standing. As clearly stated by Krishnaswami Aiyar, C.J. in Sundaram Lyer v. Thandaveswara Iyer[2] on behalf of the Full Bench

The high standards of the scriptural marriage, which was a sacrament, were undermined by awful considerations of immediate monetary gains at the sacrifice of the enduring purposes of the marriage union, but an abuse of the situation soon became apparent when the bridegroom came to be marketed as a commodity for the value of his accomplishments and future promises. The purpose of this bill is to outlaw the corrupt custom of offering and receiving dowries. This issue has been attracting the government’s attention for a while, and the Hindu Succession Act of 1956 was one of the strategies used to try and address this basically social issue by giving women better property rights. However, it is believed that passing legislation that both criminalizes the practice and guarantees that any dowry provided would benefit the woman will greatly influence public opinion and help put an end to this scourge.

Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act defines stridhan as any property acquired by a Hindu by inheritance, partition, or gift by a person or by her own skill, held by her as full owner and not limited owner.”

The act also added a penalty for giving taking or demanding of dowry under Section 3 and Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act. Also “section 4A Prohibits offering shares in property or money for marriage through advertisements.”

Section 8 of Dowry Prohibition Act states such Offences to be cognizable for certain purposes and to be non-bailable and non-compoundable.” And the burden of proof in such cases lies on the defence.

THE LAWS OF DOWRY IN ISLAM

Although it has no basis in Islamic law, dower is a widely accepted habit today. The Qur’an forbids stealing another person’s household goods by illegal methods and foretells hellfire for those who continue to adhere to the dowry system.[3] Despite all of this, Muslims are still affected by this social disease; it may have started with Muslims who converted to Islam but kept their traditions.

HOUSEHOLD VIOLENCE

The dowry system creates violence in society; when the bride’s family fails to meet requirements on time, atrocities worsen. To get material or financial incentives from the bride’s family, extreme means are sometimes used; this can lead to pressure or domestic violence. In addition, women and girls are raised to serve their in-laws without regard for their own needs for the rest of their lives. After being mistreated her entire life, a lady suddenly gains power when she becomes a mother-in-law, and she becomes the abuser.

DEATH DUE TO DOWRY: HOMICIDE, SUICIDE, BURNS

In India, the government, law enforcement agencies, courts, police, and medico-legal specialists involved in dowry cases are all very concerned about the horrific burning of married women. Dowry’s death is a horrible crime that is slowly poisoning and devouring the entire community. Two sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) are 304(B) and 498(A). Section 304 IPC[4] deals with the dowry death where the death of a woman is caused by burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage and soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty by her husband/relative of her husband or in connection with any demand for Dowry.

Section 498 IPC states cruelty by a man or man’s relatives on women

In Satbir Singh v. State of Haryana[5], the Supreme Court ruled that the death of women includes suicide, homicide, homicide in the name of an accident, etc.

In Shanti v State of Haryana[6], The petitioners were charged and found guilty of dowry death. The Court upheld the conviction, ruling that the degree of cruelty evidence required to support a criminal cruelty accusation may differ or be less than that required to establish a presumption of dowry death.

For the purpose of establishing the truth and facilitating the efficient administration of justice, trustworthy, impartial medical evidence must be verified.

FEMALE FOETICIDE

Negative effects of the dowry system include female infanticide and feticide. Families want to have male children because they are useful in the dowry market. In Indian societies, girls are typically massacred in the womb of their mothers in order to save them the financial burden of a dowry. This is because sons are generally preferred. Girls are viewed as a financial burden on the family since, unlike men, they will not get a dowry to cover the costs of their education and upbringing; in fact, females who give birth to a female child face social disapproval. Because they cannot afford a sizable dowry, women from lower socioeconomic backgrounds frequently endure spousal violence; as a result, some parents would rather kill their daughter while she is still in the womb to avoid shame later in life.

EDUCATION’S ROLE IN DOWRIES DEMAND

It is expected that the groom’s education will have an influence on his net dowry because well-educated grooms are more desirable in the marriage market. The most common justification for why a groom’s education results in a larger dowry is because brides compete with one another for a particular groom, which drives up offers of dowries. The Nisha Sharma case, Mahila Nisha Sharma v. The State of Madhya Pradesh,[7] was an anti-money lawsuit in India that started in 2003 when Nisha Sharma accused Munish Dalal, her future husband, of requiring dowry. Nisha Sharma was presented as a youth icon and role model for other women in the national and international media coverage of the case.

Ways to eradicate the dowry system are: • Educate your daughters and sons. • Encourage them to have their own careers. • Teach them to be self-sufficient and responsible.

. • Similarly, you should treat your son and daughter. • Do not educate your children about demanding dowry. • Educate your children about the anti-dowry system

SUMMARY

In India, the practice of burning brides whose dowries were considered inadequate by their husbands or in-laws is considered the most severe kind of dowry abuse. The bulk of these cases are documented as suicides or unintentional cooking fires, which highlights deeply ingrained prejudices against women in India. The holy and revered institution of marriage has now become less holy and spiritual. It is a means to get financial gain, and in order to achieve this gain, one need not refrain from engaging in horrific and barbaric activities. Somehow, the system of society that views women as commodities is partly to blame for all of this.

Reference(s):

[1]  ezyLegal, “Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act.”

[2] 1946 Tra LR 224

[3] Qur’an 4; 29-30, (Ibid).

[4] “India Code: Section Details.”

[5] Satbir Singh v. State of Haryana, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 404

[6] 1991 AIR 1226

[7] Mahila Nisha Sharma v. The State Of Madhya Pradesh, (2012) M. Cr. C. No. 3921/2012

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