Dowry Practise in India: On May 1, 1961, dowry was prohibited in India and Dowry Prohibition Act was enacted that criminalised the practice of dowry. But it is 2021 now and the dowry system and harassment breathe freely among us. India has an alarming trend in which 20 women die every day as a result of harassment over a dowry – either murdered or compelled to commit suicide.
The brutal reality of the dowry system is not the story of rural areas only. Even the educated family sitting in metropolitan cities like Delhi and Bangalore is harassing a woman for not bringing enough gold or money. But why does dowry continue despite being a criminal offence? The answer is in the loopholes of the law, failed system and the excuses that dowry is hooded in. So here are some of those excuses in the garb of which dowry continues to oppress women
1. A gesture/gift for the daughter and his husband
Often, parents try to shrug the idea of criminality associated with dowry by naming it as a gift. In the name of the gift, the bride’s family give ample gold, furniture and cars to the groom’s family thereby consoling themselves that it’s not a dowry. But dear parents, how can gifts be so compulsory that without them the marriage will break or later your daughter will be harassed for not bringing enough “gifts”? And why is giving away gifts the responsibility of the bride’s family and not the groom’s? Remember that changing the name from dowry to gifts doesn’t change the idea of measuring women in terms of gold.
2. It’s for my daughter so that she lives happily
Firstly, why do assume that your daughter will not be happy with her in-laws? Shouldn’t parents or the bride choose to marry in a family where she will be happy? And, will dowry help her live a happy life? It is just not right that a groom and his family values a bride’s happiness on the condition that she brings dowry in name of comfort. Let us also remember that brides rarely get to own the dowry she brings. So even if it is for her “happiness”, she won’t get to own it.
3. Dowry is a tradition; cannot be broken
In India, traditions are valued more than laws. Just because dowry is a traditional practice, many families refuse to let the law speak. But dear society, the tradition of dowry was prevalent when women were unemployed and couldn’t fend for themselves. But today, women empowerment accelerates to a new height every day. Why should we follow a tradition that doesn’t make sense in the present time? Haven’t we already left behind many traditions related to clothes, food and lifestyle? Why not dowry? Does it not show that women’s oppression prevails even today?
4. For reputation
This means that many families, both groom’s and bride’s, hoard expensive dowries to show off their wealth and reputation in society. But how can it be right to measure one’s wealth over the objectification and suppression of a woman? Why can’t families use the immense wealth in educating their daughters?
There are still more excuses in the garb of which dowry continues till today. I have personally witnessed how the pressure of dowry completely breaks women’s families who cannot afford expensive things. Hence women of those families are forced to quit education so that the money could be saved for their dowry. But the question that needs to be raised repeatedly is that why is the dowry system prevalent even today? When it is already a criminal offence, why do families continue to objectify and suppress women in terms of gold? Even though parents believe that more dowry is equivalent to more happiness for their daughter, can a marriage based on amounts of gold ever be happy? Can a woman be happy in a family that demands dowry? Do we care about women’s happiness and independence in the real sense of the term?
It is high time we understand that dowry is a patriarchal practice that only oppresses women rather than ensuring their happiness. IIf you really want your daughters to be happy, then educate them, help them know about her legal rights and encourage them to raise voice against anything that oppresses her. I am just another daughter whose family practices dowry. If I can oppose it, so can you.