indian dowry

What Is The Dowry System In India?

How much money is exchanged during a wedding depends on many factors, including where the couple will live after marriage, their religion, the groom's and bride's social status, the groom's and bride's skin tones, and the families' respective bargaining skills.

Despite the fact that dowry's use has been illegal in India since 1961, it is nevertheless commonly used there. No one knows for sure what percentage of marriages involve a dowry, but in my own family and among my friends, it seems to be included in about half of the marriages.

However, this is rarely reported as a criminal incident. National Crime Records Bureau statistics from India shows that in 2015, less than 10,000 cases of dowry were reported in a country with an annual average of over 10 million weddings.

Abuse involving a dowry is often reported in accordance with domestic violence legislation. In 2015, more than 113,000 women reported being victims of domestic violence, and 7,646 deaths were attributed to dowry-related disputes.

If the dowry was too high, the husband or in-laws would have to kill the woman. This happens about 21 times a day.

Marriage in India is viewed through the lens of long-established cultural norms and beliefs. The traditions of the past are passed on from one generation to the next, and are sometimes rethought in light of contemporary values.

However, the dowry is the only custom that has stood the test of time.

This practise has its roots in mediaeval India, when relatives would provide the bride with a dowry in the form of money or other items to ensure her financial security in her new life.

The British colonial government made dowry payments a prerequisite for marriage, hence this was the norm for starting a family at the time.

Prices for Indian brides, across all socioeconomic strata, are rising as a result of the country's current economic situation.

Unfortunately, the frequency of recorded assaults on women has increased alongside the bride price.

To raise the bride's financial contribution to the marriage, the groom or his family may resort to violence against the bride or her family as part of the dowry procedure.

There is a possibility that husbands and in-laws' greed would grow with time, despite the size of the dowry provided at the wedding.

Therefore, the bride frequently becomes the victim of emotional, physical, or sexual violence. Abuse might involve anything from cutting her genitalia or breasts with razors to putting kerosene in her water and leaving her to drown. There are situations where women feel they have no other option but to end their own lives.

In spite of the fact that dowry demands have been unlawful in India since 1961, enforcement of the law has been problematic.

An amendment to the law in 1986 specified that any death or violence occuring within the first seven years of a marriage would be investigated as a probable dowry-related offence. Most dowry-related killings, sadly, never make it to the police's radar.

Cash Cow or Goddess Lakshmi?

goddess lakshmi

The new bride, like the Hindu deity Lakshmi, is seen as the protector of the household and the bringer of material wealth.

The greedy have found a way to ask for dowry even though it is illegal to do so in India.

Satya, from the Bengaluru-based women's rights forum Vimochana, explains that "now, dowry has assumed a different form altogether," with financially secure households accepting it in a more nuanced fashion, such as by asking the bride's family to pay for things like rent and tuition.

Pooja Vikas Shirgire, a high school senior from a small town in the Indian state of Maharashtra (West), penned her final letter home on October 4, 2017. He got home from work to find his daughter dead on the floor, and he had no idea she had died. Pooja wrote in her note that she was at her wit's end because of the strain from society placed on her father. She had to go to this extreme measure because she refused to place the financial weight of a dowry on his father, who was already deeply in debt.

Pooja's dad worked the land, and for the 60 percent of the country's population that calls the countryside home, things aren't much better. Oftentimes, husbands and in-laws may threaten their wives with divorce if the dowry is not paid. In a country where religion is highly valued and divorce is looked down upon as a social stigma, the young bride will be forced to live alone and might even be expelled by her own family if she ever marries again.

Since the dowry system is still widely used in the country, this is just one of many similar incidents that has occurred. Several women have faced domestic abuse and mental harassment, in addition to being complicit in the murders of others. From 2012-2014, a total of 24,771 dowry-related deaths were reported in India, according statistics compiled by the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB). In 2014 alone, there were 8,455 deaths, or 30 deaths each day among women.

Table of Contents

Women Are Abused

The harassment and abuse of women typically begins when they are unable to pay the dowry or continue to do so in the future. Sometimes husbands or in-laws may burn or acid-bath a wife.

Another issue, according to Kumari, is police corruption: "Many police officers accept payments from families of the accused and then refuse to take cases ahead," she told DW, adding that even when the husband or family members are charged, the conviction rate is exceedingly low.

The victims and their families are reluctant to file complaints, according to Savita Pande, a professor of South Asian studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi: "Trials require time and money and may not always be feasible, especially for victims from the middle and lower classes."

Dowries Make Child Marriage More Likely

Parents often marry off their daughters when they are still young to avoid paying a hefty dowry.

More than 700 million women around the world are currently alive because they were married off before the age of 18. Anti-child marriage organisation Girls Not Brides predicts that by 2050, this figure will climb to 1.2 billion.

The dowry system is a major contributor to the high rate of child marriage in India. Families can save money by arranging marriages for their daughters at younger ages because the dowry for a child is significantly cheaper.

Dowries Keep Girls From Going to School

Families may discourage their daughters from pursuing an education in order to save money for the dowry, but this strategy is counterproductive because dowry amounts rise with each year of schooling.

Many households believe it is futile to pay for a female student's education since they would never see a return on their investment. Furthermore, girls are typically trained to be better housewives by being kept at home to perform labour.

Are the laws enough for dowry?

Demanding or paying dowry became illegal in India for the first time in 1961, just 11 years after the country's Constitution went into effect, with the passage of the Dowry Prohibition Act. In 1984 and 1986, the statute was amended to give it far more force. These changes, particularly those implemented in 1986, made homicides related to dowries punishable under section 304 (b) of the Indian Penal Code. The anti-dowry provisions of the penal code were enhanced with the addition of Section 498 (A) in 1983, which mandated the arrest of a woman's in-laws in cases of harassment and/or cruelty. It marked a watershed moment for the advancement of women's rights in the nation.

"In India, we have various laws against dowry, but lack of understanding among individuals creates barriers in applying them," Sayanti Sengupta explains.

Meanwhile, there has been a persistent cry about how the dowry ban is being broken. Consequently, the Supreme Court ruled on July 27, 2017, that an accused could not be promptly detained under section 498A. Now, before the police file a First Information Report (FIR), the Family Welfare Committee will meet to discuss the situation. The land is to be dotted with such committees.

Burn unit nurse Satya of Bengaluru's Victoria Hospital argues, "The most recent amendment, made pursuant to section 498A, is unwarranted. If women aren't misusing the legal system as much as they claim, then why are some women being pressured to kill themselves? ".

Unfortunately, many women who are still subject to the harmful effects of dowry have seen their circumstances deteriorate as a result of the recent change in the legislation. Besides awareness programmes, hardly much is done to aid women who find themselves in such predicaments. Due to the difficulty in proving dowry harassment in court, the police are unable to help many of these women. They also have a severe shortage of emotional support. It's unfortunate that news of a crime only emerges after the fact.

Dowries Maintain Gender Inequality

indian dowry (2)

In this way, the practise of paying a dowry perpetuates a social norm in which women are seen as property.

Dowries Trap Poor People in Debt

In order to pay dowries, many low-income families end up taking out high-interest loans, selling off their land, or promising to pay the money back in instalments.

According to Haji Mumtaz Ali, the leader of an anti-dowry campaign, families from his socioeconomic status "frequently go begging" to provide dowries for their daughters before they are married. "Other families get the money for a dowry by selling off the family farm. As a result, some families struggle to make ends meet because their parents took out high-interest loans from predatory lenders.

In addition, dowries reinforce social stratification. When affluent families demand large dowries, less well-off families are discouraged from proposing marriage.

Dowries Discriminate Against the Disabled

The dowry system discriminates against women who are disabled or sick since the groom's family typically expects more money to marry their daughter.

In response to public criticism, authorities in the Indian state of Maharashtra pulled a textbook from schools in which it was stated that "ugly and disabled" females would be paid higher dowry fees.

The dowager kingship (or dowry) tradition may be prevalent and harsh, but it is not permanent.

Groups in India fighting for women's rights and economic justice are attacking the dowry system.

The use of dowries has reportedly decreased from 95% of marriages to 5% as a result of an anti-dowry campaign operating in three villages with a largely Muslim population.

Regrettably, more effort is needed. Despite the existence of dowry ban laws, they are rarely enforced.

The mission of Global Citizen's Level the Law Campaign is to ensure that all laws are equally applied and enforced around the world.

The dowry system in India is theoretically linked to many factors, including the residence and inheritance system, women's roles in production and kinship networks, the relative quantity of possible husbands, and social stratification. This article examines the practise of paying dowry in India and the institutional and economic factors that contribute to its continued prevalence. The research demonstrates that dowry payments serve to equalise the observable differences between the bride's and groom's households by using data on marriage transactions and on the characteristics of the bride's and groom's respective families. Therefore, in the marriage market, the dowry represents the "price" paid for a "good match." The findings also demonstrate that the prevalence and quantity of the dowry are unaffected by the ratio of marriageable women to men, the location of the bride after marriage, or the inheritance system in existence.


The tradition of giving a bride a dowry to assure her financial stability can be traced back to mediaeval India. Although it has been against the law since 1961, dowry is still widely practised in India. There were 7,646 deaths in India in 2015 attributed to domestic violence stemming from dowry-related conflicts. In India, dowry demands have been illegal since 1961, but the law has been difficult to execute. Unfortunately, the police rarely hear about dowry-related murders.

On October 4, 2017, the body of high school senior Pooja Vikas Shirgire was discovered. There were 24,771 reported deaths in India due to dowry disputes between 2012 and 2014. There were 8,455 female deaths in 2014, or approximately 30 deaths each day. The widespread practise of marrying off minors is largely attributable to the dowry system. In 1961, India made it unlawful to either demand or pay a dowry.

Section 498 of the Criminal Code was enacted to strengthen existing anti-dowry measures in 1983. (A). On July 27, 2017, the Supreme Court held that a suspect may not be detained quickly under Section 498A. Anti-dowry campaigns have purportedly reduced dowry use from 95% of weddings to 5%. Women with physical or mental impairments are treated unfairly under the dowry system. Laws prohibiting dowries exist, however they are rarely enforced.

Content Summary

  • Although dowry has been outlawed in India since 1961, it is still widely practised in the country.
  • India has more than 10 million weddings per year on average, but in 2015 there were fewer than 10,000 dowry cases filed, according to the country's National Crime Records Bureau.
  • More than 113,000 women reported being victims of domestic violence in 2015, and 7,646 deaths were associated with dowry-related conflicts.
  • Despite the fact that dowry demands have been illegal in India since 1961, enforcing the law has been difficult.
  • Even though dowry is prohibited by law in India, some greedy people have discovered creative ways to demand it nevertheless.
  • Wives are often threatened with divorce by their husbands or in-laws if the dowry is not paid.
  • Several women have been involved in murders or have been the victims of domestic violence and/or mental harassment.
  • According to data published by the National Crime Record Bureau, there were 24,771 dowry-related fatalities in India between 2012 and 2014. (NCRB).
  • There were 8,455 female deaths in 2014, or approximately 30 deaths each day.
  • There Is Abuse Against Women
  • When women are unable to pay the dowry, or cannot afford to do so in the foreseeable future, they are often subjected to harassment and violence.
  • Due to early marriage, more than 700 million women worldwide are still here today.
  • There is a high prevalence of child marriage in India, and a significant factor is the dowry system.
  • Exactly 11 years after India's Constitution took effect, in 1961, the Dowry Prohibition Act was passed, making it unlawful to either demand or pay dowry.
  • In 1983, Section 498 (A) was added to the penal code to require the arrest of a woman's in-laws for acts of harassment and/or cruelty as part of the existing anti-dowry legislation.
  • In the meantime, there has been a growing outcry about the widespread violation of the dowry ban.
  • Since the Supreme Court determined on July 27, 2017, that an accused may not be swiftly detained under section 498A, the provision was deemed unconstitutional. Now the Family Welfare Committee will have a meeting to discuss the problem before a First Information Report (FIR) is filed with the police. The new amendment in the law has unfortunately made things worse for many women who are still vulnerable to the negative impacts of dowry.
  • Many of these women go unaided by the police because of the difficulty of proving dowry harassment in court.
  • The dowry system in India is under criticism from groups advocating for women's rights and economic justice.
  • Women's responsibilities in production and familial networks, the relative number of potential husbands, and societal stratification are all logically connected to the dowry system in India.
  • This article investigates the persistence of dowry in India by analysing the cultural, societal, institutional, and economic reasons that sustain it.
  • Using information about marriage transactions and the characteristics of the bride's and groom's families, the study shows that dowry payments help to equalise the observable inequalities between the homes of the bride and husband.

FAQs About Dowry System In India

Greed. The expectation that a dowry will be given at the time of the bride and groom's engagement is to compensate for the groom's education, career, and wealth. The bride's education, career, and wealth are completely disregarded, as she is not given equal societal status to a man.

In India, it has its roots in medieval times when a gift in cash or kind was given to a bride by her family to maintain her independence after marriage. During the colonial period, it became the only legal way to get married, with the British making the practice of dowry mandatory.

Social Awareness – creating a widespread awareness against the evils of the dowry system is key first step towards eradicating the practice. Campaigns should be designed to reach the deepest strata of the society and aim to spread knowledge about the legal provisions against dowry.

A dowry is a payment, such as property or money, paid by the bride's family to the groom or his family at the time of marriage.

Dowries are sets of assets (money, material goods, real estate) that a bride's family gifts to a groom when the two are wed. The purpose of a dowry is often threefold. First, it gives the bride and groom the money and goods that they will need to build a home together.

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