English Hindi


Prelims Capsule

Indian Society

Dowry system in India still prevalent finds World Bank study

Dowry system in India still prevalent finds World Bank study


  • GS 3 || Indian Society || Women || Issues Concerning Women

Why in the news?

Kerala dowry case has shown the hidden sin in the Indian society which is still prevalent even though dowry was ban in India in the year 1961.

Present Context:

World Bank did a study and it has been found in the study that dowry is still prevalent and practiced in many state of India.

Dowry System in India:

What is dowry?

  • Dowry refers to any property or valued security offered or promised to be delivered to the other party to a marriage, either directly or indirectly.
  • In India, the dowry system refers to payments paid by the bride’s family to the bridegroom in the form of capital, durable goods, and real estate, among other things, as a condition of marriage.
  • Dowry is a social scourge that has resulted in unspeakable abuses and atrocities against women. Women from all walks of life, whether poor, middle-class, or wealthy, have died as a result of the atrocity. The poor, on the other hand, are the ones who succumb to it and become victims of it, owing to a lack of knowledge and education.

History- Dowry yearlong practice:

  • The origins of India’s dowry system are a point of contention.The dowry system may be traced back to the Vedic Ages in India.
  • In ancient India, the Code of Manu permitted both dowry and bride wealth, although dowry was the more prestigious form and was linked with the Brahmanism caste.
  • Dowries began as “love presents” for upper caste persons’ marriages, but throughout the medieval period, dowry demands became a prerequisite for marriage.
  • In South India it is called as stridhan, and in North India it is considered as a gift or dahej. It is also a fact that since a girl joins her husband’s house in Hindu patriarchal society, she is given compensationin forms of dowry. As per ancient custom, Kanyadan was followed bythe ritual of Vardakshina, which was a nominal amount decided unilaterally by the girl’s father according to his financial condition,

What are the main causes for dowry?

  • Social structure: Indian society is primarily patriarchal, and the dowry system is largely a manifestation of this patriarchal nature, in which women are viewed as a burden on the family, and dowry is one form of compensation for transferring that burden, whereas male offspring are viewed as superior and breadwinners, causing families to demand dowry for their male offspring.
  • Societal pressure: Giving dowry is frequently regarded as a status symbol. In Indian society, the amount of money spent on a daughter’s wedding has become a standard metric for determining one’s social position. Likewise, the higher the dowry, the more educated and well-off the groom’s family is.
  • Traditions and customs: The bulk of dowry-related cases in India are conducted in accordance with Indian society’s norms and traditions. People prefer to cling to traditions that have been passed down through the generations, even if they are uncomfortable with them.
  • Social restrictions: The pressure to marry within one’s caste or clan exacerbates the issue. These restrictions reduce the number of suitable grooms available, resulting in a scarcity of desirable choices, allowing the desirable side to demand more.
  • Fear of abuse: Many Indian families pay a dowry to alleviate their fear of their daughters being abused by their in-laws. Giving a dowry is thought to secure their daughter’s security and non-discrimination following marriage.
  • Illiteracy/ unawareness: People are persuaded to offer and demand dowry due to a lack of education and awareness. This system might not have persisted if families were aware that women had the same status as males and should not be viewed as a burden.

The unethical and immoral issues involved in dowry system are:

  • Representation of culture: It leaves a blemish on the wonderful culture and heritage that we have inherited.
  • Women’s trade: Women are sold as commodities to be exchanged.
  • Patriarchal: It represents a male-dominated culture in which women’s voices are ignored.
  • Inequality: where wealthy people can afford to educate their daughters but poor people cannot.
  • Social taboo: Giving dowry is viewed as a matter of status and pride by certain sections of the population.

Effect that dowry causes:

  • Gender discrimination (Preference for male):As is customary, dowry is one of the most significant financial burdens carried by the bride’s family, and thus encourages discrimination against girls from the moment they are born. They are not educated or treated equally to their male counterparts, and they are frequently murdered before or after birth (female foeticide and infanticide).
  • According to the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) State of World Population 2020 report, India has accounted for 45.8 million of the world’s 142.6 million “missing females” over the last 50 years (Missing females are women missing from the population at given dates due to the cumulative effect of postnatal and prenatal sex selection in the past).
  • Violence and abuse with women:Despite the bride’s parents paying the dowry, the groom’s relatives continue to demand more, eventually resorting to violence against women. Women are subjected to physical and emotional abuse, and many are murdered or burnt alive. Many women commit themselves because they can no longer take the torment.
  • Women’s social standing and self-esteem are deteriorating: Women have poor self-esteem compared to males their age since they have been subjected to such prejudice since infancy. They are taught that they are a financial drain on their family and hence undesired. Their standing is frequently viewed as substandard.
  • Having an impact on women’s Careers: The wider backdrop for the practice of dowry is women’s underrepresentation in the workforce and, as a result, their lack of financial independence.The poorer parts of society who send their daughters out to work to help them save money for her dowry.Regular middle and upper-class families send their girls to school, but they don’t place a high value on education.

Kerala dowry case:

  • Kerala dowry case and death of women due to dowry demand showed evil side of the educated society.
  • Kerala is the state with the finest track record of educational advancement and progressive gender-reform movements throughout history.
  • However, the State has a history of lavish weddings and ostentatious gold displays. Despite the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, dowry payments are being done directly and discreetly in Kerala, using cash, gold, property, and cars.
  • According to previous rounds of NSSO surveys on employment and unemployment, Kerala has the highest female unemployment rate in the country.
  • According to a report released by the Kerala government’s economics and statistics department in 2019, there are significant gender discrepancies in the labor market.
  • In such a circumstance, a man’s earnings are prioritized, resulting in dowry demands.
  • Such dowry demands result in dowry-related violence against women, as well as death in certain situations.

Laws in India:

  • The Dowry Prohibition Act was passed in 1961: Dowry is prohibited in India under this Act. The Act also makes it illegal in India to take or gift dowry.
  • The Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections.
  • Section 304B deals with dowry death in India.
  • Cruelty is addressed under Section 498A. This clause indicates that if a spouse or any of his relatives commits mental or bodily injury to a woman, they shall be punished.
  • Section 113B of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872: It deals with the presumption as to dowry death.

Way forward:

  • Anti-dowry laws that are properly implemented may be beneficial. Misuse of such legislation must also be addressed.
  • Women should be encouraged to become self-sufficient, and efforts should be made to ensure that every female child has access to education.
  • Efforts should be made to raise awareness about dowry and dowry-related violence, as well as to educate women about their rights. School and community-based awareness initiatives should be organized.
  • People should be urged to abandon practices that hurt women in favor of treating women equally to their male counterparts and assisting them in living a decent life.

Mains oriented question:

Comment on the dowry system’s prevalence in India and its impact on women. (250 words)