In our scriptures, women have been designated as a symbol of spirituality such as Maa Annapurna, Laxmi and etc. Our Indian culture believes the women as a pillar of the family, but sometimes the pillars do not get the values and respects which they usually deserve. In early centuries, they were treated as a showpiece of the house and many rules and restrictions were imposed on them. They only used to serve the men of their house. However, with the passage of time, various laws enacted in our country with the aim to provide a shield to the women and also to preclude the encroachment women rights. There are various laws which are regarding women, avails them with certain rights and special laws for their security and protection.
In this article, I would like to present the origin, concept and legal provisions regarding dowry. The word dowry describes the property of a woman given by her parents during the time marriage. In connection with the dowry, the most common and general crime that takes place with women is dowry death, cruelty for dowry, etc.
History of Dowry System in India
Prior to understanding the concept and legal provisions we are required to have an overview of the dowry. In ancient times, there were 8 kinds of marriages performed in Indian society. The marriages of the early period are mostly in connection with the dowry and exposed the history of it. According to manusmriti, 8 kinds of marriages were in practice and among which some of them are discussed here; The first kind is Brahmavivaah which means a marriage conducted by family and the marriage was tied between a woman and a man who stands in the same caste, status, level in the society also wherein the woman was supposed to carry lots of jewellery and ornaments with her while moving to his husband’s house. The next kind of marriage is Aarsh Vivah, in my perspective this kind of marriages are like transaction, as these marriages hold the elements which are similar to the business that takes place. In this marriage, parents of the bride had to fix the cost of her daughter and then in accordance interested party had to make the payment for taking the bride with them. Next is Assur Vivah, in this practice, if a man wants to marry a woman, then the man and his family have to buy or purchase such woman from her parents by paying them the amount they desire or demands.
Likewise, there are various other marriages contained in the Manusmriti, that are Prajapati Vivah, Rakshasa Vivah, Gandarbh Vivah, Pisaach Vivah, etc, according to which we can estimate or assume how much pain did society served the women and in such a way the women in-taken injustice within herself. Among such marriages, the most decent and pertinent marriage considered in the society was the Brahmavivaah and the practised concept in the society for the dowry was adopted from this type of marriage only. But with the passage of time, the concept slightly transformed into the modern concept and thereafter it became malpractice. Dowry became a weapon which harmed and killed the women. Since dowry gave the concomitant or which we generally call as spin-off effects. The concept of dowry resulted into the termination of women life faster; it precluded the development and growth of women as due to dowry the parents of women generally were not willing to provide education due to which social development, emotional development, intellectual development, physical development, as well as other developments and growth were not present in the women. Parents of the female children were used to aim into saving their money for making the contribution to give dowry for their marriage and which stopped them to give education to their children. Henceforth this contributed to the child marriage and lack of development and absence of growth in the women.
Legal Provisions to curtail Dowry
Now, if we will look over the present scenario, we will find that many laws and provisions are available which prevents the practice of dowry and crime in connection with it. The motive of such laws is to eradicate and eliminate the concept of dowry and to improve the condition of women so that they could be motivated and supported for education and lead a better life. Laws that include the prevention of dowry are; Dowry Prohibitions Act 1961, which provides the provisions that, prevent dowry and states giving and taking of dowry as a punishable offence and also Indian penal code, 1860 which provides some provisions in regards with the dowry, etc.
The dowry Prohibitions Act, 1961; consists of total 10 sections among which section 2 provides the definition of the dowry that includes the property, goods or money given to either party to a marriage, by the presents of either party, or by anyone else in connection with the marriage. Section 3 provides the penalty for giving or taking dowry as whoever commits such offence shall be punishable with the penalty not less than 5 years. Section 4 of the Act provides the penalty for demanding dowry with the imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 6 months but which may be extended to 2 years and with fine up to 10,000 which may extend. Section 4-A provides that the advertisement regarding dowry shall be ban and such advertisement shall be the offence. Section 5 provides that the agreement shall be void which carries the giving and taking of dowry. These legal provisions are made by the parliament to obviate and remove the practice of dowry.
There are also some provisions which are made to prevent the crimes related to dowry that is included in the Indian Penal code. Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code provides that whoever, being the husband or relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years and shall also be liable to fine. Its explanation includes the first clause which describes that any willful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health ( whether mental or physical) of the woman. Also, Section 304- B of the code provides the punishment regarding dowry death as any death caused due to demanding or forcing of dowry and in consequence of it such any woman suicides or harassed by husband or husband’s relative, for such offence, accused shall be punishable with the imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 7 years but which may extend to imprisonment for life.