A bride comes to a new family. She doesn’t know anyone. She doesn’t know a thing about your family. She doesn’t know what to expect from a family. But yes, you need money from her father to keep her with you. You need to keep her down to show her you manliness.
Does our culture teach us this? Did our parents raise us this way to be dependent on someone else’s money and more importantly, do need money from your spouses’ parents to take care of her?
So how did this dowry system start?
Ancient literature suggests bride wealth was paid only in the asura-type of marriage that was considered reprehensible and forbidden by Lord Manu and other ancient Indian scribes. Historians suggests that religious duties listed by Manu and others, such as ‘the bride be richly adorned to celebrate marriage’ were ceremonial dress and jewelry along with gifts that were her property, not property demanded by or meant for the groom.
So when did the U-turn take place?
It all started with Islam coming into India. Women were not allowed to hold property in her name and therefore, the groom started demanding it instead.
And this just not ends here. The British just made it worse. Women were not allowed to hold any property in their name and the husband automatically would get anything which she needs to inherit.
And at this moment, this system of husband owning the wealth of his wife was created, the traditional dowry system got converted into a menace creating an institution of greed those oppressed, victimized and suppressed women. Families started looking at brides as prospective sources of wealth. Marriages stated becoming more of a business deal, where making wealth was easier. The male child was something to be looked forward for and the female child was becoming a menace. Male child became an additional source of income, and female child became a financial burden on the family.
Even sometimes, the grooms’ family doesn’t even go with the marriage if they feel that they are not getting enough money. And that’s just not it. There are numerous cases of suicides that the newlywed brides commit just to get away from the torture. Worse, people even resort to murder to do away with the bride who hasn’t brought money into the family.
The New Stand
The nationalist leaders and social reformers condemned the institution of dowry during the freedom movement. Mahatma Gandhi writes: “Any young man who makes dowry a condition for marriage discredits his education and his country and dishonor womanhood. Young men who soil their fingers with such ill-gotten gold should be excommunicated from society.” However, these efforts did not minimize the evil to any noticeable extent.
However, the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 gave women a hope that yes; they won’t be discriminated or ill-treated for not bringing dowry. But this didn’t work according to changing times. A mere 15,000 fine and a five-year bailable warrant didn’t make much sense. The amount of discrimination doesn’t go well down with a mere 15,000 fine.
In my opinion, only and only education can help a person to let go of dowry. Government can make stricter laws, can do mass media campaigns or try to lessen the gender inequality gap but if the family and the groom is uneducated then this will all go down the drain.
Eradicating this evil is not possible without educating the society. The legislation aren’t enough to bring a revolution. Rather, the masses are the ones who hold the concentrate to eliminate the dowry system.