Woman – a daughter, a sister, a wife and a grandmother, throughout her life she dreams of having a wonderful life, a life to see to it that her marks in the school will make her parents happy, a life to see to it that her husband stays healthy, a life to see to it that her children study for their exams and a life to die seeing others happy. She cares for others, more than herself, then why we see her so much vulnerable in every moment of her life. So many issues to talk about women, rape being the most popular issue on women in the present time, almost all the women, in India, are vulnerable to this offence.
But just like rape, the dowry system has affected the women psychologically, physically and emotionally. The dowry system kills her like a slow poison. The custom of dowry, in India, has spread through the hierarchy of social stratification. Several feminists suggest that the practice was initially adopted by the upper castes, then over a period of time it has been passed down into lower castes, and eventually reaches the untouchables, the outcasts. As the sociological studies suggests, often lower groups intend to copy there dominant group in there society.
India ranks 136, in Human Development Index, among 187 counties around the world. This show, the people in India are in very bad condition and more than half of the population lives in poverty. The reason for poverty in India, if we look historically, it is because of the caste system, which restricted half of the population, in India, to develop, as even in present time 66% of Dalits are poor, and if we look in present time, education has deprived the poor from getting a better standards of living.
It is these poorer sections as well as the middle class of our country who, not being educated and having good standard of living are still governed by old customs and traditions and continue to practise the dowry system, were in the name of gifting the groom the bride’s family is put into debt. But even in many rich families too, this system is being followed, even though they are well educated. The sums of cash and goods involved, as dowry, are often so large that the payment can lead to vicious cycle of debt in the bridal family.
This has a very bad effect on the lives of unmarried women who are considered as economic liabilities by their parents, this leads to preference of boy over girl, leading to female infanticide and among the married women; they are physically and mentally harmed by their husbands and his family members, if promised dowry are not forthcoming. Modernization in India has became a barrier to many customs to be continued, like the caste system, the child marriage etc.
but modernization has also lead to increase in practise of certain customs which were restricted to certain communities, as mentioned above. When we see caste, dowry and modernization, they are all inter linked with each other. With modernization, individual is not restricted to do his caste occupation and has chances to have good standard of living. Since new income and earning opportunities, brought about by modernization, are predominantly filled by men, there price tag of dowry increased.
After analysing the historical developments of dowry system among the people in India, who are governed under Hindu law, now let us look at the Muslims, who are the 2nd largest population in India. Despite the fact that Islam’s beauty lies in simplicity and it recommends simple marriage, some transgressions such as dowry have crept into Muslim society in a wide range. When we look through Quran, we come across “Mahr”. According to “mahr” it is a mandatory payment, in the form of money or possessions paid by the groom, or by groom’s father, to the bride at the time of marriage that legally becomes bride’s property.
But as time has passed by, Muslims have changed their character and are following their Hindu counterparts in demanding and offering dowry both, in heavy cash and kind. The competition among the rich and well-to-do section of the Muslim community to reserve a good match for their daughters for whatever the demand is, has increased. Education has hardly has any influence on the minds of the people in respect of dowry. On the contrary, a highly educated man expects a higher amount of dowry, just as it happens among the Hindus.
The violence committed on women, for dowry, has increased in recent times. If we observe properly, as to why this dowry violence takes place, we can see a broader picture. The reason for dowry is mainly because the women are seen as less productive than man, concept of dowry itself shows that one’s gender determines one’s worth. The roots of this deficiency can be seen were even a bride, who may be well educated and earning than her husband, will still have to pay the dowry price, just like the other bride who is not educated and not earning.
And in some instances too, were even if demands for dowry were to be satisfied fully, young women would continue to face torture and harassment in their in-laws homes because of women’s custom-sanctioned-inferiority. Dowry deaths are example of patriarchal authority. In some cases, the patriarchal authority expresses itself by murdering the young women by burning with kerosene (most frequent in urban areas) or drowning (common in rural areas).
Other methods employed to murder include poisoning and physical battery. These facts and historical development shows that it is because of the disrespect and uncultured behaviour that we show towards women, has lead to female infanticide, uneducated girls, sexual harassment, dowry system, heavy debt in bride’s family and domestic violence. Let us all respect women, and treat them has equals, because only this solution, will lead to abolishment of many social evils against women.