With recent heed to the brutal crime of female infanticide, and the plans for imposing stringent regulations against the offenders of such crime, Indian government may also need to fasten its anti-dowry laws under section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The dowry system in India has been a cultural relic that over the years has proved to be pagan and covetous. As a hedonistic practice, dowry has made marriage in India a predatory tradition indeed. Eons ago, dowry was a custom that ensured economic security of the bride, and was not overwhelming for her parents. Today, however, it is an inundated obligation that leads to a massacre of innocent souls who are entrapped and pushed into a burning pot. Often, girls’ education, including the costs associated with her professional standing is a financial responsibility of the parents in India. Dowry though is an expense over and above this. Also, both rural and urban parents aspire to accomplish their responsibilities towards the girl child amiably. However, parent’s socio-economic statuses and the uncouth social and cultural pressures in society play a significant role against this endeavor. A majority of parents who are working class or are in the rural areas with least economic feasibilities can thus only fulfill bare necessities.
The fear, threat, and demand for dowry are so massive that a bridegroom’s family can easily chaff the grains from the grass while looking for a match for their boy. What counts as a suitable match for their ‘boy’ is a list beyond a girl’s character, values, or her professional education. It instead has to do a lot with her parent’s economic background, their bank balance, and ownership of property. Demand for dowry gets double in cases where the groom has a sister of marriageable age. There are requisitions and expectations that include expenses for the groom’s sister’s marriage reception besides marriage accommodation and travel expenses. This all is a collective burden on a bride’s helpless parents. Ironically, most gold digger in-laws are those who have daughter(s), and most dowry demands are initiated by mother-in-laws who have been someone’s daughters themselves. Insufficient dowry is also a prominent cause for family feud post marriage. In cases where the in-laws are not satisfied with the overall marital transaction, they continuously harass the daughter-in-law for dowry. However, if the daughter-in-law is not submissive enough to the pretentious and imposing demands of the in-laws, she is finally type casted as the ‘black sheep.’ Dowry is also an antecedent to domestic violence in India. Some of the Indian states with dowry as a rising criminal offense are Uttar Pradesh (UP), Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh (AP), Kerala, and Punjab.
In addition, there are innumerable cases of dowry deaths and harassment that go unheard and unnoticed because of a patriarchal society that favors sons over daughters besides a failing law that hardly prohibits the lustful practice of dowry. Unfortunately, dowry is a social evil that mainly victimizes and traumatizes a girl, including her parents. In India, girls who are dowry survivors rarely have a strong social support system and anti-dowry laws are barely a blazing agenda among the political parties as well. Also, there isn’t enough political picketing against dowry and thus many poor and urban Indian families wish that they never bear a daughter. Dowry is a big devil that costs an exorbitant price for being a girl and for having a gender that is so ruthlessly knocked off in the womb or slayed at birth. Saving India’s unborn daughters from the clutches of a social evil like dowry would thus be a tribute to its lost and slain daughters.
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