logue of etion wanderments

50 years of ban on dowry

Dowry is the money, goods or estate that the girl brings forth to the marriage. It is an custom in most of the prominent cultures. But of special interest in India. Brides in India have been harassed by the groom and sometimes family for insufficient dowry, sometimes bordering at brutality, torture and occasionally even deaths.

Government of India banned paying and getting of dowry in 1961 and later modified the dowry laws in favor of the bride, so that brides could seek redressal of harassment easily. The ban hasn’t worked in stopping streedhan but there have many many brides who did get their grievances adequately heard, albiet after separation. A few cases of reverse harassment have also been noted and criticized.

50 years of ban and yet dowry remains an undeniably strong force in marriages. Clearly there is something that our have legislators missed. In this blog entry, I point out one such thing and to one alternative line of thinking to the current legislation that can prevent dowry harassment.

There is another, often ignored inequality at play here: How many girls get equal share in the parental property … the same thing as their brothers? Yes, you know the right answer… almost none.  ‘Streedhan’, given at the time of marriage, is supposed to counter that situation… it is basically the girl’s share in the parental wealth. Girls seldom get their genuine share. I think this has been missing from the legislator’s point of view as it stands. Note that this view also legitimises streedhan and leads us nowhere into the solution for the dowry harassment problem of India.

Now comes the interesting part (and to my suggestion): To whom does the streedhan belong? … obviously to the bride! Thus, the basic mistake with ‘streedhan’ or ‘dowry’ is to give its to the groom or his mother or sister. It is the dhan of the bride, give it to her, have her keep it in her custody … safely in a bank locker under her name… well most of it at least. Heck, ask her hubby to add to it whenever he can. Why not let it grow with time as well?

So my suggestion to the legislators is: Have streedhan declared legally at the time of marriage. Also have it noted how much of it is going directly to the bride and how much to the rest of the family. If the girl is harassed, and she forced/decides to leave, have the streedhan returned to her in full.

Doesn’t it look like a more sensible solution? A side benefit is that the people with black money will not be able to ‘buy’ better grooms as they will have to legally declare the cost.

If someone thinks taht reaching a middle ground is not important from the bride’s perspective, here is some food for thought.


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