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Why in the news?
Ayesha Banu, 24, a resident of Ahmedabad, recorded a video message before she jumped into the Sabarmati River and ended her life. Ayesha said she was facing harassment for dowry from her husband
Dowry System in India:
Origin of the Dowry System
- The Vedic phase was a golden period for the women. Marriage was considered sacred and was more of a necessity than a social contract. Wife was considered as ‘ardhangini’.
- In Hindu customs and during vedic period the brides are given to the grooms known as ‘kanyadan’ along with some gifts. ‘Kanya’ means the gal and ‘Dana’ means the gift.
- According to Rig Veda it was believed that without presenting ‘Dakshina’ to the bride the custom of ‘Kanyadan’ is incomplete. Hence ‘Kanyadan’ and ‘Varadakshina’ became intimately associated.
- This was a voluntary tradition out of love and affection of the parents of the bride but during the course of time a coercive element has crept in. It has taken deep roots not only in the marriage but also post-marriage relationship.
- The decent ritual of ‘Dakshina’ to the bridegroom has assumed the nomenclature of “dowry”. The Atharva Veda refers to a royal bride bringing dowry of 100 cows. (Domestic violence act, Preeti Mishra 120) it is said that Rishi Karav gave a number of gifts to his daughter, Shakuntala when she married King Dushayant.
Present aspect- Status of women in present society
- Today women are the marginalised sections of the society. The increasing crime rate toward women had lead to decline in the status of women and symbolises the powerless position in the society.
- In the terms of the typical society it’s the marital status which provides identity to the women. Though much legislation and measures have been taken to abolish dowry prevalent in the society it’s still predominant in the society in some or the other form.
- Nowadays, weddings are expected to be lavish even if the bride’s parents cannot afford it. Before the marriage itself everything to be given and gifted is being decided between the parties. At times marriage depends upon the amount the bride’s parents are ready to spend on her wedding.
- This is exploitation of women and a form of dowry at present. The legislation passed by the govt. has many loopholes and provides with many ways and means to take dowry without even falling in the ambit of the act.
- Indian Parliament has criminalised domestic violence. The Parliament amended the Penal Code in 1986 to explicitly provide that dowry deaths are punishable with imprisonment between seven years and life.
- Moreover Code of criminal procedure also establishes need of investigating into any suspicious death or suicide of any women within a period less than 7years as of marriage.
- Finally, in addition to criminal laws, the Parliament amended the Indian Evidence Act, which now creates a presumption of dowry death whenever a woman is subjected to dowry-related cruelty or harassment soon before her death.
- Lack of awareness of the seriousness of the evil and the general mentality and acceptance of women’s inferiority to men.
- Denial of violence by women due to their upbringing and cultural conditions and social attitudes.
- Indian society is male dominated and women are brought up to be submissive and never to oppose the authority.
- Religion has restricted instead of improving the status and rights of the women. The factor of egoism in men to be superior also plays a chief role in degrading status of women in the society.
- Lack of education is the main cause of the depth of this social evil. Once economic independence comes in women the evil of dowry will naturally die.
- Lack of proper legal system and ambiguity in the legislations is one of the causes why dowry is still prevalent so strongly in Indian society.
- The modern system of dowry is a problem of conformist culture which makes its almost impossible to uproot the evil.
- Parents provide with dowry with a view of helping the newly wedded in establishment of the new household.
Provisions related to dowry:
- Dowry prohibition act, 1961: prohibits the giving and taking of dowry – the act extends to the whole of India except the state of Jammu or Kashmir
- Section 304-B of Indian penal code “introduced in the IPC by the dowry prohibition act, 1986: to punish dowry deaths (ESP to curb the evil of bride burning)
- Section 113-B of Indian Evidence Act: Raises, in certain circumstances, a presumption of dowry death of women.
- Section 498-A of IPC: punishes cruelty and harassment, by husband or his relatives, of a married woman.
- Section 113-A of the Evidence Act: Raises, in certain circumstances, a presumption that the commission of suicide by a married woman has been abetted by the husband or his relatives.
- Section 174(3) of CPC : the section which refers to the enquiry and report by police case of suicide or death in abnormal circumstances which includes crimes related to women like suicide and death of women within 7yrs.
- Section 176 of CPC: This section refers inquiry by a magistrate into a cause of death, compels the magistrate to hold an inquiry into the cause of death either instead of, or in addition to the investigation of the police officer, and to secure for post-mortem in all cases where a woman has, within 7 years of her marriage
Failure of Legal system:
- According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) 2019 data
- A woman becomes a victim of dowry death roughly every 1 hour.
- A woman becomes a victim of dowry cruelty by her husband or in-laws every 4 minutes.
- On an average, about 7500 women suffer from dowry deaths every year.
- Total number of reported dowry death cases in India from 2005 to 2019
- Bihar has the highest dowry death Marriages in Bihar are steeped in deep-rooted traditional practices, many of which are re-interpreted to align with the changing times. The dowry system is one such evil practice that has stubbornly resisted any change. With its roots traced to medieval times, the practice, though illegal, is an established trend in present Bihar.
Steps that can be taken:
- In any case involving dowry crime should be investigated promptly. More women police officers should be involved for proper investigation of crime against women.
- Pendency of the cases should be disposed when it’s fresh in the minds of the public so that it can act as a deterrent for the society. An example of this can be lichhamadevi case v. state of Rajasthan where death sentence was inflicted on the mother-in-law for burning her daughter-in-law but then it was converted to life imprisonment.
- Code of criminal procedure was being amended to increase in no. of judicial officers appointed in metropolitan and setting up of fast track court. Registration of marriage and the gifts presented on or after that should me made stringent. While no time limit is being prescribed to deal with the cases related to dowry both govt and judiciary should take measures towards it
- Dowry is a social scourge and public opinion has to be mobilized against this cancerous evils. The memorable words of Mahatma Gandhi, Acceptance of dowry is a disgrace for the young man who accepts it as well as perhaps a dishonor for the woman folk should ring in the ears of every unmarried young man or woman.
- Women in India are nor coparceners with men. They should be provided with a part of the property of the in-laws after the marriage so that she is given a status of son of her father-in-law.
- Many Hindu customs gives right only to sons. For e.g. light the pyre. Women should be given equal status and should be allowed to perform the rituals thereby giving women back there dignity and respect.
- Mental set up of the parents and the girl who considers themselves inferior to them and keep silence as to the fear of losing the groom or the offer of marriage should be changed.
Dowry is the biggest cause of subordination and oppression of women. Parents of a girl do not educate their daughter because any way they have to spend on her marriage. Parents of bride and groom are treating their daughters and sons as commodities. It not only harms self-pride of daughters but also degrading to the pride of sons. In this race of show off poor are also got hurt as the practice is increasing their class also. If anyone who can check this practice is family of bride. It has to understand that daughter is not a burden, she can be equal caring, if not more as son can be.
Mains oriented question:
Dowry prohibition act, 1961 has been implemented long back but if we consider the data of NCBR the cases of dowry has been increased, what are the reasons behind it? Answer it in detail.(200 words)