Not many matrimonial websites will tackle this issue, but we need to understand the genesis of the dowry system and its present ugly nature. During matrimony, the Indian bride’s family is expected to ‘willingly gift’ the Indian groom and his family cash, gold, car and other material goods as dowry.
Dowry system was not always the scourge of our society. In ancient times, since girls were not allowed to inherit land, property or cattle, she was given gifts of gold ornaments, clothes, utensils,etc., during matrimony. Clothes and utensils to help her set up her new home. Gold ornaments were safety net in times of financial duress. These items were always hers; never claimed either by her husband or his family. In many cases, prospective grooms offered to the prospective bride. If she changed her mind, she had the right to keep the gifts with her.
It was not until 1035 A.D. when one finds the mention of the Indian bride’s family offering gifts to the Indian groom. Usually, the well-off families of the groom brought gifts; low-income families couldn’t, however, that never came in the way of the real purpose of matrimony.
Over time the practice has degenerated to such an extent that it has become a social evil, with its roots deep across all strata and religions of India.
Reasons why this evil pervades in our society:
1) Inferior Position of Women – No matter how well qualified, educated, financially independent a girl is, in our patriarchal society she holds a position inferior to the man. The Indian bride and her family are expected to appease the Indian groom and his family to acknowledge this superior position.
2) Greed – The Indian groom’s family see their son a ticket to fortune. The Indian bride’s family is expected to compensate the groom’s family for the ‘cost’ and ‘effort’ of raising an eligible son.
3) Social Pressure – Matrimony as an institution is held sacred by Indians. Divorce is a taboo and to see a girl return back to her parental home, is considered a shame. Knowing this, the Indian groom and his family believe they have the freedom to harass the Indian bride and her family for more dowry, leading to torture and even death.
4) Reluctance to abide by the law – There are laws to protect the Indian bride and make dowry an offence, but it is the lack of adequate education, social pressure, etc. that prevents the bride’s family from taking help of law.
Dowry system is the main reason why Indian families prefer bearing sons; there is widespread female infanticide, suicide among women to escape the torture at the hands of in-laws and shame at the hands of her family.
To get rid of this evil, women must be educated, financially independent, must have control over their finances, and must be allowed to inherit from her father. There should be no shame associated with late marriage, being single women or even divorce. Women and their families must be made aware of the various laws to protect them (Dowry Prohibition Act 1961, Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code, Section 302 of IPC, Section 498A of IPC, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005).