The Burning Bride: The issue of Dowry system in India

A girl is supposed to be the most beautiful creation of god. She has been given the place equal to god. There is an old saying that god cannot be present everywhere so he created; mother. A girl plays so many roles not only at her parental home but whole through her life. She is a daughter, a mother, wife, sister, daughter-in-law, and a friend and so on. She tries to accomplish her tasks at her best. Making everyone happy around her is; always her motive. She is sensitive, emotional, sensible and compassionate. She is a shakti-swarupa and a janni’. Her life is always devoted toward her family, she spends her whole life for the welfare of her family and family members, she can stay empty stomach but cannot let her kids sleep hungry, she can sacrifice anything for the happiness and pride of her family but ironically her own life has always been a subject of struggle, criticisms, blames, expectations, violence and sometimes death!

Marriage is the oldest institution of our Indian society. It is a system according to which the members of the society are supposed to be settled and organised and also being given the liberty to live within the framework of the society. Marriage is publically a formal bonding of a man and a woman to get settled together under a same roof/shelter and having the liberty to have sexual relationship in order to resonate and proceed the functioning of the society. Marriage is not only a bonding of two bodies but a bonding of two families and clans/groups. That is why a marriage is one of the most important systems of the Indian society. Marriage is a symbol of pride, happiness and prosperity for Indian families. Marriage is always supposed to be a matter of heavy expenditures for both of the families in the present time but the family which is most impacted, is the family of the girl/bride. It is a huge affair for a girl’s family because her parents are accountable and responsible to give full respect and hospitality to the bridegroom’s family. Bride’s parents have to arrange and manage all the things according to the choice and comfort of the groom’s family. But this whole scenario becomes more serious and expensive when it comes to see off the girl with expensive gifts and trousseau, huge amount of cash and home decor, sometimes big expensive gifts like a car, house, a bike and miscellaneous things.  And these all expenditures can be put together under a single tag; “dowry”.

Fundamentally the system of dowry is very much old. Since the ages of Aryans, this system of dowry is in the trend. A dowry is basically a collection of few gifts, trousseau and other necessary belongings that the parents give to their girl when she leaves her parental home once for all. These all things are only and only for the girl’s comfort and necessity. Parents willingly, give all these gifts as their blessings and it is up to them only, that how much or less they want to give and can afford to give. Since a girl is said to be always a member who is born at parent’s family but her real family is the family of her husband whom she would be married with. And in Indian society a girl has no ancestral right in her parent’s property, only a son and a grandson can claim on ancestral property but not a girl who is the daughter of the family. That is why also, since ages during marriages parents try to give their best and as much as possible, to their daughters.

Till here there is no problem being seen but actual problem arises when the blessings of the bride’s parents turn into the reason of greed for the family of the bridegroom! There is a very old and orthodox mentality being associated with this aspect of dowry. Dowry is simply a form of blessings for a girl from her parents but the family of the boy perceives this dowry as their Fundamental Right! Groom’s family thinks that this dowry is for them and they deserve it. Hence they should be given huge and expensive dowry at the time of marriage. Dowry has been manipulated, misinterpreted and modified by the family of the groom in many ways.  Earlier there were small gifts and furnishing things but now there are newly emerged versions of dowry. Now groom’s family do not ask for small things but literally demand for huge amount of only cash or some big gift along with the cash. The basic ideology of the family of the groom is that, they have done a commendable job by making their son well settled in his life and ultimately it is the girl who would be benefited from this thing in a long run since she would the better half of their son. So in whole dowry is indirectly remuneration from the girl’s parents which the parents of the groom demand from them, in return of their big sacrifice of time, money and energy done on the well being of their son so far.

Since marriage is such an expensive affair for the family of a girl, which is why female foeticide is increasing in our society. Parents who are poor they feel unable to bear the huge expenditures of marriage of their daughters and find it more suitable to abort the female fetus instead of giving birth to her and bearing all the expenses of her upbringing, education and marriage. And that is also why this trend of female foeticide is not only limited to villages where majority of people are poor and illiterate but it has also reached the urban cities where people are rather educated but they are fearful of the expenses associated with a girl child.

If marriage is an expensive affair then it is also a big risk that a girl and her parents try out once in their lives. Even after receiving a big dowry from bride’s parents, the family of the groom doesn’t seem to be satisfied. They want more and more. On every occasion or festival they ask for big gifts for themselves. They have the mentality that after marriage the girl’s parents are bound to give and give for their whole life. And whatever the groom’s family ask for, a girl’s family must give it anyhow in any condition. This pictures gets worse to worst when boy’s family start torturing, abusing and beating the girl for more dowries. A girl becomes helpless in such a case. She becomes a great victim of home violence and most of the times death, when she and her parents are unable to satisfy the greed of dowry. The history of the Indian society has numerous of cases and instances where the innocent girls were burnt alive in the fire of greed for dowry.

  • TRANSFORMATION OF MINDSETS: there is a deliberate need to transform the mentality of the parents of girls. In Indian society the parents of girl tend to feel inferior and weak. They feel they are parents of a girl that is why they are inferior to the parents of a boy. They tend to feel weak and conscious in society and spend their half of the life being anxious and tensed about the upbringing and other big expenses of the marriage. Even the educated and well settled parents think that, a girl is always dependent upon her husband. And that is why girls are always brought up with a factor of dependency, insecurity and fear. But until unless parents stop to perceive and project the girls as weak and dependent, dowry system would persist for sure for further long years. Parents should bring a transformation in their mindsets and should begin to see their girls as independent and enough strong identities. Parents should bring up their daughters equal to boys. They should input the values of high thinking, freedom and independence in their daughters so that they are able to find suitable mates for themselves and that without any compromise and insecurity.   Parents should also step back while giving dowry at the time of marriage. Parents initially should watch that how the new family is treating with their daughter. They should not exaggerate the greed of groom’s family in the very first go. Parents should be relaxed that they are giving their talented and confident daughter who is herself the precious gift, and should be practical towards the limit of their pocket as well.
  • PENALTY FOR DOWRY MUST BE RAISED: according to the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961 both the giver and the receiver of dowry and in fact who demands it directly or indirectly are punishable. Penalty for dowry is minimum six months imprisonment and 5,000 rupees and this may be raised to 2years imprisonment and 10,000rupees respectively. But this penalty should be raised high for the ones who Demands dowry directly or indirectly. As such parents of the bride should be free to give their blessings in any form but if the family of the boy, demands particular things and keep on demanding even after the marriage then they must be penalized strictly. And if the penalty would be higher and strict then there would be fewer cases of demands for the dowry. Here the Indian police should cooperate little more and should be more alert. Whenever there is any complaint regarding dowry they should act immediately and punish the guilty.
  • TIME TO STAND ALONE; GIRLS! : Girls should be very much aware and alert towards their Rights and Freedom. First all they should simply refuse to marry the boy whose family is demanding dowry. A girl should stand by her parents in such a situation. Girls should be aware for the benefits of education in their life. Education can help them in the time of any crisis in their lives. They should make a proper utilization of their education so that if after marriage she has to take up a bold decision of leaving that greedy family and husband, she is able to take up any good job that would make her self-sufficient. There are many girls who are not well educated and married in a greedy family hence their life is the biggest struggle for them. They swing in the middle, cannot ask her parents to fulfill the greed of her in-laws and can’t even refuse. It is the time for girls to realize their power and strength. She should make her in-laws and husband aware she has been given high values by her parents. Her parents have made her so much capable that her life is not dependent and limited by any dowry. She should behave boldly and confidently.

Till the time, there are givers of dowry the greed of the receivers would be endless. Somewhere we have to put a stop to this chain! Parents of the girls should rather concentrate on making their girls educated, independent and confident rather feeding the greedy mouths of groom’s family. It is a shame for those who ask and demand for dowry. Handing over a daughter to a new family is the toughest task for a parent and it is so shameful on the part of the groom’s family who cannot value a human being and see the marriage of their son as an exchange offer with few goods and money. Greed of anything is lethal. Parents should not forget that dowry is like oil and greed for this is a fire that may burn their daughter one day while leaving the ashes of her mere memories!

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