Women aren’t meant to cut short their lives. They need no doles or hand-outs to survive. As an essential and integral part of society, we only need to treat them as equals.
Our society stands on various physical and material aspects. Matrimony or civil union is an imminent aspect and a pillar of our society. But it has been clouded by the system of dowry. Despite laws, this system prevails in our society. We are all aware of “stredhan”, the gifts and clothes were given away to the daughter out of love by her parents. Dowry, on the other hand, is the wealth demand by the groom or his parents. The custom of dowry is very rudimentary but of great importance in our society. This is an indirect way of extortion to get cash and other lavish gifts from the bride’s family. This unending trauma has reached a point where it is now becoming bearable. If the groom or his parents are not getting a dowry, they humiliate the woman and sometimes kill her. In some cases, the parents kill their own daughters if they are not in a position to pay off the groom.
The Dowry system is not an exception for Indian society. It is found in other parts of the world as well in different forms. During the ancient period, the status of women was high. She could take part in assemblies like sabhas and simities. Many historians have written about it. In the 11th century, Al Bruni’s writings gave us insight into the social structure of Indian society. He has mentioned there was no dowry system and no gifts were given by the bride. Instead, the groom’s side used to give some gifts to the would-be bride.
In the ancient period, many social evils were absent. Women had property rights. They could inherit their parents’ property without any hurdle. But gradually, the status of women started declining. After the 16th century, there were limited property rights of women, making them a burden. So with this change, parents began to give some gifts to their daughters at their wedding as a token of love and give them some part of their wealth in this form only.
“Dowry system has a noble origin, but we have made it a social evil and a death trap. Nowadays, dowry is treated as a symbol of social prestige”
This is where the dowry system was born. It has a noble origin, but we have made it a social evil and a death trap. Nowadays, dowry is treated as a symbol of social prestige.
The more successful the groom, the more is the dowry expected in the marriage. In earlier times, parents use to give dowry as a symbol of love, which includes brides’ personal use. But nowadays, people think their daughter would be weighed on the same scale as their dowry. They make it more of a show-off.
In the recent past, we have seen many dowry deaths, be it Bandipora case, in which the mother of two ended her life due to unlimited dowry demands or be it Ayesha’s case, who was fed up with fulfilling her husband’s demands. It is the youth who can change this. We need to make a distinction and stop taking dowry. Our education system is a failure and lacks moral values because we see dowry deaths mostly in highly educated families. We lack a support system for such victims.
Having studied many cases of dowry deaths, I must say that women show resistance in their death which they can’t show while being alive. Whenever a woman comes to the forefront, we become judgmental and presume and assume many things. Whenever she complains about in-laws, she is asked to show patience. We have many laws for dowry deaths, such as section 304 IPC, but these laws need to be implemented in letter and spirit. We have a ministry of women and child development, and it has started many programs for women. But there is a lot more to do to save women from becoming victims.
We should raise awareness of these laws. We should make our girls psychologically strong and emotionally stable. We should make them financially independent. There is a need of adding moral values to our education system. Girls should be given full support to pursue their dreams.
Last but not least, the religious preachers must raise awareness about the duties of in-laws, the behaviour of a husband towards his wife. And other connected issues. The issue of dowry has been legally dealt with a by-law passed on May 21, 1961 (Dowry Prohibition Act), but we need to enforce it. We need to campaign and make people aware of the effects of this evil custom.
By seeking all these solutions, we can minimize the incidence of such type of evils and also change the mindsets of people who are in favour of promoting such customs. “Our nation must be clean and clear, and it is our duty to keep away such unhealthy habits and customs like dowry, which have contaminated our nation. Man must respect women and fight for her safety and decorum because she is the one he is born from.”
A policy is good or bad as long as it is implemented. The laws framed in response to this grave Injustice against womenfolk fall behind in the implementation stage. The awareness of women in this direction could be a game-changer. Herein lays the space for civil society to engage women in training their attitude towards their rights. The great proponent of social justice, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, used to say: “Change must begin from society itself” Laws, rules and regulations run subsidiary to social initiatives of the society. Unless and until we don’t get rid of this evil in our personal lives, no one can change our fortune. Women aren’t meant for suicides. They need no doles or handouts to survive. As an essential and integral part of society, we only need to treat them as equals.
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