Dowry has always been the custom and cultural part of the Indian community for many centuries. Indian society is one of the few Asian communities where the bride is expected to pay the dowry to the grooms family. This cultural activity has had a long history in the culture in India. The caste system of the Indian community has greatly contributed to the dowry system that has been long witnessed in India. In the old days, the dowry paid to the groom was a small token that symbolized good wishes to the grooms family. However, over the years things have changed and people have taken marriage as a business where the grooms family expects to enrich themselves out of a marriage. This has led to conflict between the bride and grooms families. Again, in some situations death has been witnessed because of the conflict between the families involved. As a result, many people have raised the question whether the dowry system can be changed so as to reduce the violent cases that we witness nowadays out of a disagreement between the families of the bride and groom. Various arguments have been raised over the matter; however, based on the current events and circumstances that have followed the dowry related issues in Indian society, it is evident that the dowry practice can be changed if not stopped.
Dowry practice in India where the brides family is expected to pay the dowry has been part of the Indian society. According to Jackson (2012), it is not easy to stop such kind of rite because it is considered an important value in the Indian culture. However, most households of the groom take the advantage of demanding more than the brides family can afford. This has caused conflict between the brides and the grooms family that has sometimes led to physical violence that sometimes ends in death. Current hypothesis on the opinion on dowry payment indicates that most women are not happy with the practice and wish that it could end or even changed (Koirala, 2016). A research carried out in one of Northern Indian state where the dowry practice all began like Bihar indicates that many women are affected by the practice. Bihar is one of the Indian states where dowry practice began traditionally; however, as research indicates it is the same place where the tension is felt more. Historically, dowry payment came about in India as a result of various factors that include economic, religious, and social reasons. The economic factors associated with the dowry payment were major as a result of women being left without any inheritance from the family as the inheritance was left with the sons (Jackson 8). The women were disadvantaged as this subjected them to extreme dependency on their families and husbands. This factor triggered the need to assist the women as well obtain their rights; thus, leading to the change in the inheritance law. The Hindu Succession Act of 1956 was implemented to ensure that even the daughters were considered during the inheritance succession (Jackson 7). The social factors in the Indian marriage are mostly as a result of the fact that the groom has in most cases considered a non-related member of the family. After the marriage, the brides family is excluded which acts as a form of premortem inheritance for the brides family. In most of the Indian families, marriage ceremonies are conducted by the brides family. However, with all these reasons, a study has shown that dowry payment in Indian society has been despised by many especially women or gender activists who claim that it undermines the womens rights. India has been majorly associated with gender inequality issues. However, over the past years, attempts to enhance womens rights have been witnessed. Over the past decade India has made a significant step to elevate womens rights; through the several women empowerment strategies, India has been ranked as one of the top countries in the Middle East working hard towards eradication of gender inequality. Despite the several attempts, there are cultural practices like dowry payment that continues to undermine womens rights. Despite the attempts to elevate the status of women in the society, women will still continue to bear the subordinate status in most of the Indian communities as long as the dowry practice still exists (Basu 49).
Dowry practice is one of the cultural practices and practice that receives backup from every aspect of the Indian society. Religiously, economically and socially, dowry practice is highly supported in the Indian communities especially from the North where it all began. Traditionally, marriage in Indian society was highly upheld and people were expected to uphold the practice with dignity and a lot of respect as it was part of the societys cultural values. However as Jackson (2012) explains, in the modern society, a lot has influenced the marriage practices that have led to the conflict of interest between the proponents of dowry practices and the people opposed to the practice. Several arguments have been raised to justify the irrelevancy of the practice and why it should be eradicated in the society. Some of the major reasons of the arguments include domestic violence, abetment to suicide, cruelty, and even death.
Dowry practice in most families has been realized to contribute to cruelty in most families in Indian society. Most women are exposed to torture and harassment especially from the grooms family in an attempt to meet the required bride price (Andermann 508). Such cruelty is manifested through verbal attacks on the bride and her family, beating or even harassment in order to meet the demanded bride price. Domestic violence is one of the common crimes in marriage in India which is believed to be contributed by dowry practices as well. Most women are exposed to abusive and threatening behaviors just because they could not meet the required bride price demanded by the family of the groom. Women are tortured physically, emotionally and even psychologically (Andermann 509). Abetment to suicide is another form crime in a marriage that is related to dowry practices in the Indian society. Despite paying the bride price, most women continue to experience threats and harm from their husbands and the grooms family in general. Out of this exposure to stress and emotional trauma, some of them are exposed to a suicide attempt. In such a case, death is the most probable outcome. Despite the several reasons that we have given to justify anti-dowry practices, there are anti-dowry laws in some of the Indian states that are established to help fight the menace of women discriminated and some of them even exposed to greater risks than harassment. The dowry probation Act of 1961 was established with the aim of reducing the common criminal cases in marriages. Despite the enactment and implementation of the anti-dowry law in India, the laws have not been fully implemented in most of the states.
Dowry practices have become of the common social evil activities in Indian culture especially in situations where the grooms family demands more than what the brides family can offer. Subjecting innocent women to extreme suffering through depression and stress that sometimes lead to death through suicide is an evil act. Some of the few reasons that lead to harassment of the bride and her family during marriages apart from reaching the demanded bride price include failure to bear a male heir the family, failure to meet the role of a good wife in the family (Jackson, 2012). Some women are even exposed to more risks than harassment; for example, some of the husbands burn the bride price to prevent the women from leaving the marriage. However, when they are exposed to such kind of trauma and they cannot go anywhere they are left to suffer that leads to stress and depression that eventually ends in death. Report from one of the Indian magazines, The Times of India published on May 31, 2013, indicates that women are exposed to a lot of depression and depression that are associated with the dowry practices (Koirala, 2016). The report from Mahali state shows that a woman committed suicide after having been harassed by the husband and his family over the dowry payment. The report indicates that the woman had complained about what she calls dowry harassment that led to her depression and eventually suicide. This has been the trend in most of the states in India. The National Crime Bureau indicates that in 2012, the cases related to dowry murder and harassment were approximately 8,200. Gender activists in India have argued that it is important to change the practice if it cannot be eradicated completely. According to the activists, women will continue to suffer and since the practice is part of the society unless it is changed or some new implementations carried out. Following the tragic circumstances that have been witnessed in most of the Indian states over the past decade, several questions have been raised including why the dowry practice still in practice and yet it is the root cause of most of the cases. The answer is simple because it is an important cultural practice that most people especially those who uphold the societal practices; therefore, it will be difficult to convince them to eradicate such important right. Again, since gender equality is still a challenge in India it will be very difficult to convince the majority of the ruling class which is men to change the policies and implement them since it does not favor them. In the meantime, it is important to reduce the death rate caused by dowry practices through changing it or even staying away from it as shown in the following figure.
Advising the society to stay away from the practice by highlighting the challenges that are experienced with the practice as shown in the figure above can greatly assist to reduce the cases of women harassment and discrimination through dowry practices. To be able to combat this kind of tragedy and wipe it out of the face of our society once and for good, we have, to begin with the men who are the main root cause of the problem. In most of the cases that women are harassed because of the dowry payment, the men are the main people involved. Therefore, convincing the men of the harmful effects and to change their perceptions and beliefs towards this kind of irrelevant and demeaning cultural practices can be the most appropriate strategy towards reducing the death rate out of dowry practices. Teaching the young people of the importance of gender equality in the society and the community as a whole may greatly assist in creating a new generation where women are not considered or perceived as subordinate members of the society.
In conclusion, the change of the discriminative cultural practices like the dowry practices in India should begin by changing the policies. Therefore, the leaders should take the responsibility because they have the power to make the dream of creating a society where women and men are considered equal. The lawyers and the judges should ensure that the anti-dowry laws are implemented in the law courts effectively. The government also has a role to play in eradicating this kind of practices from the society as it depends on both women and men to contribute to the development of the economy. However, this cannot be possible when one group is still discriminated against.
Andermann, Lisa. "Culture and the social construction of gender: Mapping the intersection with mental health." International Review of Psychiatry 22.5 (2010): 501-512.
Basu, Srimati. "Looking through Misogyny: Indian Men's Rights Activists, Law, and Challenges for Feminism." Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 28.1 (2016): 45-68.
Jackson, Cecile. "Introduction: marriage, gender relations and social Change." Journal of Develo...
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