With the word dowry, probably the first thought that crosses the minds is the luxury car someone received from his in-laws. This is because the sordid act of giving and receiving hefty goods, money or estate from a woman and her family at the time of marriage is a common practice in many patrilineal cultures that expect the woman to reside with her husband after marriage. Dowry is demanded by the groom and his family which according to them serves to help the new husband manage the added responsibilities that come with marriage.

The appalling truth is that Dowry has been a prevalent practice in India’s modern era whereas it has almost diminished in all the other places.

What is even more muddling is that the demands of the man’s family are acquiesced by the girl’s family readily. The social and religious factors force the girl’s family to appraise the value of their daughter in terms of wealth. Many times, the dowry system puts a great financial burden on the bride’s family. However being fearful of the consequences including the emotional and physical abuse that may be inflicted upon the girl, they end up in arrears due to this burden. This derogatory practice depreciates the purity and divinity of the tradition of marriage. It robs the joy of the bride’s family as they encumber themselves with the problems that dowry engenders.

In such a scenario where giving and taking dowry is done by the willingness of both the families, the interference of law and organizations is ruled out. The perturbing fact is that India has by far the highest number of dowry-related deaths in the world.

Around 21 lives are lost to dowry every day in India where most of the cases are of burning the bride alive by the man and his family.

Apart from murders, the cruelty and the violence that the bride has to go through if her family is unable to meet the demands makes the intervention of the law mandatory.

The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 was the result of the same. This legislation provides for a penalty if any person gives, takes or abets giving or receiving of dowry. The punishment could be imprisonment for minimum 5 years and a fine more than Rs. 15,000 or the value of the dowry received, whichever is higher. Also, Section 304B was added to the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (“IPC”), which made dowry death a specific offence. It is punishable with a minimum sentence of imprisonment for 7 years and a maximum imprisonment for life.

While talking about dowry may seem irrelevant considering how stringent laws have been passed but unfortunately, dowry is still prevalent and has been disguised as “Gifts”.

The Gift syndrome is a unique culture in itself. It has been tailor-made to fit and balance out the ancient practice and the legality associated with the dowry.

All of the above-mentioned activities still take place just under another title. It’s parallel to a shift of the same product from beverages to soft drinks. That’s how thin the difference is.

Simran Khosla, 19, studying in LSR mentions how during the wedding season we can hear constant chatter about a Rolex being gifted to the groom. A car gifted to the bride and the emphasis stressed on the word “gifted”. She says, “It’s silly as to how people, even the most educated people fall trap to this practice. It’s hard to digest that dowry is still prevalent and how it’s become a part of our lives. With the law challenging it, we people find other creative ways out of such problem and bring about a new brand name, “Gifts”.  Shamelessly add a tagline “We are progressive. No dowry but just gifts with love”. Everybody needs to doom this practice because it is absolutely inessential and illogical”.

Stories of people saving money, buying jewellery and making all arrangements for their daughter’s wedding right from her teenage is bombarded in our eardrums. Surely we all have uncles and aunties who “joke” about our wedding being next on the line.

It’s time we remove the façade and snatch away this creative word “Gifts” to unveil the atrocity of dowry.

With creativity being in demand, we are supplying it for the wrong cases. The practice of dowry is dilapidated and decrepit in every nook and corner. There is no justification of this imprudent practice. The cliché sentence goes, it’s time to wrap this practice in a beautiful gift wrapper and gift it to the world beyond Earth because it is irrelevant here!

Also Read: How To Raise A Feminist Son

Reshma Ganeshbabu is an intern with SheThePeople.TV

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