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The Awful Sin of the Society – Dowry

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Last updated date: 20th Jun 2024
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Dowry Prohibition Act

Dowry Prohibition Act is an Indian law which was enacted on 1st of May  in the year 1961. This act was levied to prevent giving or receiving any form of dowry. The Dowry Prohibition Act was passed in the year 1961 which justifies the term ‘dowry’ which includes the property, goods, or money that is given by either of the parties who is engaged in the marriage. This can be given by the parents of either of the party or by anyone else who is in connection with the marriage. The Dowry Prohibition Act is applicable to all persons irrespective of caste or religion in India.  


Let us learn about the same and get an awareness check on the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961, which is issued by the government of India and is mandated rigorously. 


What is Dowry?

Dowry is a very common and prevalent word in the society which is related to marriage. It is usually said to be an amount or gifts which are given by the family of the bride to the groom and his family at the wedding. Where in the beginning it was the voluntary choice of the parents of the girl to give her gifts during the wedding ceremony, in the present society it has become a norm. 


Dowry History and Overview

In ancient times, marriage rites were performed in the Vedic period which was associated with the famous ‘Kanyadan’. This is laid down in Dharmashastra that this praise-worthy act of Kanyadan is not complete until the bridegroom was given a ‘Dakshina. So, the actual rite was as follows: when a bride is given over to the bridegroom, he was to be given something in cash or in kind, this would fulfill the meaning of ‘Dakshina. Thus, in those times Kanyadan became common with giving 'Dakshina'.  


While, this must be noted that, the 'Dakshina' was offered out of love and affection and it did not constitute any kind of compulsion or it didn't mean it was a consideration for the marriage. This was completely a voluntary practice without any demanding overtones.


Now, as time progressed, selfishness, illogical behavior, and inhumanity dawned on society. The actual meaning of dowry has disappeared and coercive elements like force and demand have crept in in society. This evilness in society has taken deep roots not only in the marriage ceremony but also in post-marriage relationships.


What was originally intended to be a non-mandatory offering given by the bride’s party to the bridegroom has now gone out of proportions and has assumed the overtones of demand. 


The social reformers who were from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have struggled very hard to abolish this system. This evilness in society was spreading filth and danger for the brides. As, if the bride’s family could not pay the bridegroom according to what is being demanded they would kill or torture the bride. 


In a bid to eradicate this evil from society, the State Governments of Bihar and of Andhra Pradesh initiated "The Bihar Dowry Restraint Act, 1950" and "The Andhra Pradesh Dowry Prohibition Act, 1958" for their respective States, but both these enactments failed miserably. 


Dowry Prohibition Act 1961 

The Dowry Prohibition Bill was legally passed in the Joint Sittings of both the Houses of Parliament – Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Thus, this is how the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 came into force. After which it received the assent of the President on the 20th of May and thereby the Dowry Prohibition Act was passed in the year 1961 which was legally binding on every other citizen of India irrespective of caste or religion. 


Dowry Prohibition Act Amendment

Following are two amending acts which complimented the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961:

  • The Dowry Prohibition (Amendment) Act, 1984.

  • The Dowry Prohibition (Amendment) Act, 1986. 


Salient Features of Dowry Prohibition Act 

1. Short Title and Commencement of the Act:

  • The rules which are levied on are known as the Dowry Prohibition (Maintenance of Lists of Presents to the Bride and Bridegroom) Rules which was initiated in the year 1985.

  • The rules shall come into effect on October 2nd in the year 1985. This is the date that is being appointed for the effective force of the Dowry Prohibition Act. 


2. Rules which Mandate the Accordance of the Presents are to be Maintained:

  • The list of presents which are given at the time of the marriage to the bride will be maintained by the bride only.

  • While the list of presents which are given at the time of the marriage to the bridegroom will be maintained by the bridegroom only.


3. Every List of Presents That are Being Referred to in Sub-Rule (1) or Sub-Rule (2) Above:

  • shall be prepared during the course of the marriage or as soon as possible after the marriage:

  • this shall be in writing;

  • this shall contain- 

  • a brief description of the present.

  • an approximate value of the present gifted.

  • the name of the person who has given the present to each other. And,

  • the relation of the person giving the present to the bride or bridegroom, a description of that relationship.


4. This shall be signed by both the bride and the bridegroom.


Did You Know?

  • There are more than 8000 cases where women were killed as a result of India’s dowry system each year.  In many cases, a woman is being murdered by her husband or in-laws as her family could not raise the desired money. In other times, the women were forced to suicide after suffering harassment from her in-laws due to failure of paying the money.  

  • There are also cases where husbands or in-laws throw acid on a woman or set her on fire for this dowry.

  • “The violence ranges from brutal beatings, emotional torture, withholding money, throwing them out of the house, keeping them away from their children, keeping mistresses openly,” or in extreme cases, “burning the wife alive,” Savra Subratikaan, she is a women’s rights worker in New Delhi told the media.  


Conclusion

This is a pure disgrace to our society that these elements did exist. One cannot say that the dowry system got completely demolished, as in remote areas behind the jurisdiction of law, this evilness is still surviving. In fact, this is a shame to the entire humanity that brides are being killed and tortured for their own self-interest. Awareness on this topic should not stop, hence today as we learned this phenomenal topic we should carry and spread the knowledge further and keep ourselves alert to sense such evilness so that we can take steps to end it immediately.

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FAQs on The Awful Sin of the Society – Dowry

1. What is the punishment for giving or receiving dowry?

Penalty for giving or taking dowry is that if any person, after the commencement of this Act, gives or receives or abets the giving or taking of the dowry, he shall be punishable with imprisonment that extends to six months, or with fine which will extend to five thousand rupees, or with both of this punishment.

2. Is dowry a crime?

Asking for dowry is a crime of course even before the marriage and Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 is applicable. Taking or receiving dowry is also a crime and is punishable for both parties. One can also report this matter to the Dowry Protection Officer in the state.

3. What is the impact of the dowry system on society?

The Dowry system causes a deep impact on society. It leads to:

  • Create discrimination against Women

  • Women becomes liability

  • Female Infanticide

  • Increase in crimes against women

  • Affects the career and education of the girls

  • Pressure on girl's parents