Dowry: a social stigma
In spite of modernization and the increasing role of women in all walks of life, the practice of the dowry in India is becoming widespread, and the value of dowry is increasing. Now the dowry has become a great criterion in the marriages instead of a proper bride. If a bride’s family fails to pay the amount of dowry demanded by the prospective groom’s family, the bride will be cruelly treated by the in-laws, and in many cases will be burnt to death.
“No dowry, no marriage,” is a widespread fear in present day society. There has also been an emergence of a feudal mindset with a materialistic attitude in a new globalized economy. The price tag for the groom is now bigger and bolder. The emergence of an affluent middle class, the torchbearer of social change in modern India, is the main factor for the perpetuation of the dowry system.
Dowry is derived from the ancient Hindu customs of “kanyadan” and “stridhan”. In “kanyadan”, the father of the bride offers the father of the groom money or property, etc. whereas for “stridhan”, the bride herself gets jewelry and clothes at the time of her marriage, usually from her relatives or friends. In “varadakshina”, the father of the bride presents the groom cash or kind. All of these could be done voluntarily and out of affection and love. Payment of a dowry, gift—often financial, has a long history in many parts of the world. In India, the payments of a dowry was prohibited in 1961 under Indian civil law and subsequently by Sections 304B and 498a of the Indian Penal Code were enacted to make it easier for the wife to seek redress from potential harassment by the husband’s family. Dowry laws have come under criticism as they have been misused by women and their families.
It has become politically fashionable to attribute all forms of violence and discrimination against women, including female infanticide and female foeticide to the economic burden of dowry that a daughter is said to...
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