- Harriet Beecher Stowe

The most common culture of the western part of the world is that a boy meets a girl, both fall in love and they get married. Though India has developed in various aspects but still it holds the traditional concept of Arranged Marriage. The parents and the family members play an important role in case of arranged marriages. Then when the marriage becomes final the boy's family come to the point of, how much gold, cash and other articles the brideg's parents can provide to their daughter. Though it is not a common practice but in many parts of India it is a common practice and that leads to Dowry System.

Dowry system in India is prevalent since the Vedic period. In the Epic period the gifts from parents, brothers and relatives at the time of marriage are considered as the property of the woman better known as Stridhan. According to Kautilya, 'Means of subsistence or jewellery constitutes what is called the property of the woman. It is no guilt for a wife to make use of this property in maintaining her son her daughter-in-law or herself if her absent husband has made no provision for her maintenance'.

Dowry as a consequence of the ancient religious custom of hindu marriages for maintaining caste hierarchy are not the only consideration for marriage today. At present in India several factors have reinforced the evil custom of dowry. Now not only the higher caste, the higher education of the bridegroom demands more money. For example in some parts of India like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh & Punjab, an IAS Officer as a groom will demand more dowry and thus now there have been grades of dowry for different grades of profession & qualification. Receiving of dowry for a son's marriage and giving the dowry for a daughter's marriage have become a social status of the family and the only scape goat in the whole process is the bride.

In India it is a common practice that after a girl child is born, her parents starts accumulating gold for her marriage and they starts the savings that can be used at the time of her marriage and this way, the birth of a girl child seemed to be expensive to the family. This has again lead to another social issue of killing female foeticide. Modern day technology has made easier to this job of determining the sex of a foetus before birth and taking advantage of this technology many parents kill the female foetus.

The Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994, was enacted for the prevention of misuse of such techniques for the purpose of prenatal sex determination leading female foeticide and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. Despite of the Acts & Regulations there are several private clinics which are performing this act of sex determination privately against a huge amount of money.

Among those who have born in the heavenly earth, some have to sacrifice their lives later at the hands of their in-laws. It is a common picture in India that when the bride' s parents are not in a position to meet the greedy needs of their in-laws even after marriage, the brides are tortured both physically & mentally by their in-laws. A very common practice of killing the bride in India is bride-burning. Bride-burning is a form of domestic violence practiced in India and other countries located on or around the Indian subcontinent. A category of dowry death, bride-burning occurs when a young woman is murdered by her husband or his family for her family's refusal to pay additional dowry. The wife is typically doused with kerosene, gasoline or other flammable liquid, and set alight, leading to death by fire.

India has a number of cases every year of bride burning. However, a lot of cases do not get reported to the police so an exact number can not be recorded.

Several laws have been enacted to curb this evil custom of Dowry.

The 1961 Dowry Prohibition Act prohibits the request, payment or acceptance of a dowry, "as consideration for the marriage". where "dowry" is defined as a gift demanded or given as a precondition for a marriage. Gifts given without a precondition are not considered dowry, and are legal. Asking or giving of dowry can be punished by an imprisonment of up to six months, or a fine of up to Rs. 15000 or the amount of dowry whichever is higher and imprisonment up to 5 years. It replaced several pieces of anti-dowry legislation that had been enacted by various Indian states.
Section 304B of Indian Penal Code was inserted by a 1986 amendment. The dowry deaths law defines a 'dowry death' as the death of a woman caused by any burns or bodily injury or which does not occur under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage. For a woman's death to be a dowry death, it must also be shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry. If this is proved, the woman's husband or relative is required to be deemed to have caused her death. Whoever commits dowry death is required to be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life.

Section 498 A of the Indian Penal Code was inserted in the Penal Code in 1983 and it reads as... Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

In practice, cruelty is taken to include the demanding of a dowry. This section is non-bailable, non-compoundable (i.e. it cannot be privately resolved between the parties concerned) and cognizable (i.e. the police can arrest the accused without investigation or warrants) on a report from a woman or close relative.

Police often file charges against the husband, his parents and other relatives (whoever being named on the complaint by the wife or her close relatives) and put them in jail.

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act , 2005:
Till the year 2005, remedies available to a victim of domestic violence in the civil courts (divorce) and criminal courts (vide Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code) were limited. There was no emergency relief available to the victim; the remedies that were available were linked to matrimonial proceedings; and the court proceedings were always protracted, during which period the victim was invariably at the mercy of the abuser. Section 3 of the law says any act/conduct/omission/commission that harms or injures or has the potential to harm or injure will be considered 'domestic violence'. Under this, the law considers physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, psychological, and economic abuse or threats of the same.
Even a single act of commission or omission may constitute domestic violence -- in other words, women do not have to suffer a prolonged period of abuse before taking recourse to the law.
Though several Acts & Laws have been enacted to curb the Dowry System, it is the inner conscience of the people that can stop this evil custom of Dowry System in India.

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