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Dowry as the basis for Indian Marriage

Dowry is the payment in cash or/and kind by the bride’s family to the bridegroom’ s family along with the giving away of the bride in Indian marriage. “Kanyadanam” is an important part of Hindu marital rites. Kanya means daughter, and dana means gift. Dowry originated in upper caste families as the wedding gift to the bride from her family. The dowry was later given to help with marriage expenses and became a form of insurance in the case that her in-laws mistreated her. It continues to be highly institutionalized. The groom often demands a dowry consisting of a large sum of money, farm animals, furniture, and electronics. The main purpose of a dowry was to provide “seed money” or property for the establishment of a new household as the beginning of the new life, to help a husband feed and protect his wife, and to give the wife and children some support if he were to die[1]. This property was “beyond the dowry” and was known as paraphernalia property or extra-dotal property. One of the basic functions of a dowry has been to serve as a form of defense for the wife against the possibility of ill-treatment by her husband and his family. In other words, the dowry provides an incentive to the husband not to harm his wife. A husband thus had certain property rights in his wife’s dowry. In addition, the wife might bring to the marriage property of her own, which was not included in the dowry and which was, as a result, she is alone responsible[2].

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The practice of dowry abuse is rising in day by day. The most severe in “bride burning”, the burning of women whose dowry was not considered sufficient by their husband or in-laws. Most of these incidents are reported as accidental burns in the kitchen or are disguised as suicide. It is evident that there exist deep-rooted prejudices alongside women. Cultural practices such as the payment of dowry tend to subordinate women in Indian society. “Reasonable dowry for a reasonable match” was advocated in our male-dominated society in the name of religion and culture, in some cases to deny a girl her share in the inheritance, They said dowry was a form of social security for the girl and more of a burden on the father to the extent that it sometimes made him commit suicide[2].

When the dowry amount is not considered sufficient or is not forthcoming, the bride is often harassed, abused and made miserable. This abuse can escalate to the point where the husband or his family does burn the bride, often by hammering kerosene on her and lighting it, usually killing her. A woman is burned to death almost every twelve hours. The number of dowry murders is increasing. In 1988-2209 women were killed in dowry-related incidents and in 1990, 4,835 were killed. It is important to repeat that these are official records, which are hugely under-reported. According to the figures, there were a total of 5,377 dowry deaths in 1993, an increase of 12% from 1992. Despite the existence of rigorous laws convictions are rare, and judges are often uninterested and susceptible to bribery. An accurate picture is difficult to obtain, as statistics are varied and contradictory. In 1995, there were about 6,000 dowry deaths. Many of the victims are burnt to death-they are doused in kerosene and set light to. Routinely the in-laws claim that what happened was simply an accident. The kerosene stoves used in many poorer households are dangerous. When evidence of foul play is too obvious to ignore, the story changes to suicide-the wife, it is said, could not adjust to new family life and subsequently killed herself. Dowry is given as a gift but it becomes violence when it is demanded. Although the practice of dowry exists in many of the countries, it has been assumed that the quantity of a challenge to the forces of modernity and modify only in sub-continent and the complex in the running of the high class of the society.

Dowry system was introduced in many civilizations after the passage of time in history, this was introduced to share the burden in terms of expenses for settling a new household. In Athens, the absence of dowry would call into question the legitimacy of the marriage. Guardian was required to provide a dowry to the bride.

European History of Dowry: Dowry was widely practiced in Europe before the European revolution. In Homeric times, the usual Greek practice was to pay an amount as bride price. Ancient Romans also practiced dowry, though Tacitus notes that the Germanic tribes practiced the reverse custom of the dower. Dowries were exchanged in the later classical time (5th century BC). One common penalty for the kidnapping of an unmarried woman was that the abductor or rapist had to provide the woman’s dowry. Until the late 20th century this was sometimes called wreath money or the breach of promise, the Domostroy, a Russian advice book of the sixteenth century, includes advice to set aside property for purposes of a dowry so that a women can also get equal rights in property, and use it accumulate linens, clothing’s, and other things for it, rather than have to suddenly buy it all for the wedding. if the daughter should happen to die, the dowry should be used to give alms and for prayers for her soul, although some might be set aside for other daughters. In some areas of Europe, most recallable Eastern Europe, land dowries were very common. It was commonly given with the condition that he will take the surname of his bride, in order to continue the family name [2]-[3].

Asian History of Dowry: Dowry is a common practice in many Asian countries, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and many others. In India, where incidents of bride burning and dowry death acquired notoriety, the payment of a dowry has been prohibited under. Then 1961 Dowry Prohibition Act in Indian civil law and subsequently by Sections 304B and 498a of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Electronic items like refrigerators, television and washing machines are given by the bride’s parents as part of a ceremony along with clothes, jewelry, shoes, and many other accessories. In recent years there supposedly has been a rise in dowry deaths even when law enforcing organizations claim that the situation is under control whereas situation shows vice versa [2]&[3].

One of the reasons for these social evils is lack of knowledge and refusal with Islamic teachings and practices are not being implemented. Hundreds and thousands of educated and well mannered Muslim girls are leading unmarried lives or believe in late marriages. In a society where this is the case with unmarried girls, who will bother about the marriage of widows and divorcees? The Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) and his companions have set many practical examples for their followers by marrying widows and divorcees. Young Muslim girls have to lead unmarried life because of financial difficulties of their parents or because of the non-availability of appropriate matches and if matches are available then demands are very much high. Why don’t we get an example of simplicity from the role modal of all the Muslims throughout the world Holy Prophet P.B.U.H that how he spent his life, how did he arrange marriage ceremony of his beloved daughter Hazrat Fatima R.A.? [2].

Marriage as a financial transaction

Young married women are particularly vulnerable. By custom, they go to live in the house of their husband’s family following the wedding. Dowry is just not the end in terms of the transaction because the greedy parents of the groom do not end their curse. The wife is often seen as a servant of husband’s family, or if she is working outside, as a source of income, but has no extraordinary relationship with the members of her new household and therefore no base of support the family. Some 40% of women are married before the legal age of 18 years. Illiteracy amongst women is very high, in some rural areas up to 63 %. As a result, they are isolated and often in no position to assert themselves. Demands for dowry can go on for years. Religious ceremonies and the birth of children often become the occasions for further requests for money or goods. The inability of the bride’s family to comply with these demands often leads to the daughter-in-law being treated as a pariah and subject to abuse. In the worst cases, wives are simply killed to make way for a new financial transaction, i.e. threat of second marriage.

“The will to obtain large dowries from the family of daughters-in-law, to demand more in cash, gold, and other liquid assets, becomes vivid after leafing through pages of official reports that dutifully record the effects of gratitude, foreclosures, barren plots and cattle dying for lack of fodder. Dowry becomes dreaded payments on demand that go together with and follow the marriage of a daughter. A “successful” marriage is often seen by the wife’s family as a means to advance up the social ladder. But the catch is that there is a price to be paid in the make a truck of dowry including the furnishing of the room, split AC, complete furniture of a home, kitchen use things and electronic home appliances etc. If for any reason that dowry preparations cannot be met then it is the young woman who suffers in terms of violence and threats. The price of the groom astronomically enlarged and was based on his qualifications, occupation, and earnings. Doctors, charted accountants, lawyers and engineers even prior to graduation widen the marvelous right to expect a ‘fat’ dowry as they make the most hunted after the cream of the graduating and educated dowry association[2].

Background Reasons

Originally, the purpose of a dowry was to provide “seed money” or property for the establishment of a new household as the beginning of the new life, to help a husband feed and protect his wife, and to give the wife and children some support if he were to die. This property was “beyond the dowry” (the root of paraphernalia) and was known as paraphernalia property or extra-dotal property. One of the basic functions of a dowry has been to serve as a form of defense for the wife against the possibility of ill-treatment by her husband and his family. In other words, the dowry provides an incentive to the husband not to harm his wife. A husband thus had certain property rights in his wife’s dowry. In addition, the wife might bring to the marriage property of her own, which was not included in the dowry and which was, as a result, she is alone responsible.

Duties and Rights of Husband and Wife after marriage

Allah has informed us about the just rights of each other on us:… the wife’s rights (with regard to their husbands) are equal to the (husband’s) rights with regard to them, although men are a degree above them; and Allah is Almighty, Wise. Qur’an [2: 228]. The statement that men are a degree above than women means that authority within the household has been given to the husband in preference to the wife because a heavier burden has been placed on his shoulders by another verse of the Quran which says, Men, shall take full care of women, because Allah has given the one more strength than the other and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them, guard. Qur’an [4: 34]

Dowry and Islam

Most of the marriages are arranged in the South Asian countries like Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan. There are lots of rules and regulations before and after marriages. As for the arranged marriages, the initial step is arranging a broker to find out appropriate bride or groom. After the completion of this procedure, the broker would play as an intermediary between the two parties. Next step is a prenuptial investigation. Both parties would investigate each other (via relatives or neighbors) about the family background, lineage, and financial status. If both parties are satisfied with the investigation, the next step would take place. If the boy and girl liked each other, the final step prior to the confirmation would take place. “that’s it..”Dowry”.

Let’s take a look upon the common people. How they manage to make a large amount (as for them) for dowry? They take severe struggles to give their daughters to appropriate grooms. Many poor families even tend to suicide due to this compulsory system if they have more than one girls to be married. Most of the divorces in India take place on account of dowry. After marriage, some sisters would encounter severe harassments from a husband or his family in terms of dowry. In this case, the wife can complain against everyone whoever participated in this torture. As per the Indian Penal Code 498 A, the accused would be prosecuted with fine. Although the dowry makes many problems, the political parties and feminist organizations are keeping silence. Actually, they don’t raise their voice sincerely against the dowry system. They would only try to solve the individual problems. Plenty of dowry based marriages is going on with Malabar Muslims. Actually, I don’t know in which era this system crept into Indian Muslims. One who knows Islam and Quran will never support this kind of system which is contrary to Islamic law and culture. “Allah” apparently explained about dowry via “Quran”. Dowry is the privilege of women (not men). She deserves it out of her husband on marriage. “And give to the women (whom you marry) their “Mahr” (Obligatory bridal money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage) with a good heart” [Quran, Al Nisaa 4:4] “But if you replace a wife by another and you have given one of them a cantar (of gold i.e. a great amount) as “Mahr”, take not the least bit of it back; would you take it wrongfully without a right and (with) a manifest sin? And how could you take it (back) when you have gone in unto each other, and they have taken from you a firm and strong covenant?” [Al Nisaa 4:20-21].[2].

Explanation: If anyone of you wants to divorce his wife and replace her with another, you should not take anything from what you have already given the first wife, even it was a huge amount of wealth. The “Mahr” is given in exchange for the right to enjoy marital relations. It’s obviously out of the above verses that women hold a prominent status in Islam. Dowry should be given to her on marriage. It’s her right. But people follow just opposite irrespective to these verses. Islam lets men accept any gifts from the bride or her family. But this gift should not be dowry or upon any persuasions. He can only accept this gift if they are providing it based on their own will. But people misinterpret it (deliberately) and consider it as a compulsory dowry system. In fact, men undervalue the right of women. After receiving a huge amount as dowry from the girl’s family, he gives a bit from it to her as “Mahr” [2].

ANALYSIS OF DATA

From Cradle to Grave

Along with cash and gold, the dowry includes cars, televisions, refrigerators and a house – no matters whether or not the groom’s family already having them is immaterial. And if the groom has a Government job, the dowry would include the bribe for a “good posting” at the desirable station. In 1999, their number was 3886, 3739 in 2000 and 3191 in 2001. Some cases ended in “suicide” and “accidental death” in police parlance but not at all. Taking into account 1,774 “suicide” cases in 1999, which “came down” to 1,632 in 2001, and 3,378 “accidental deaths” in 1999, which declined to 2,750 in 2001[4], it is clear that the problem of dowry continues to trouble women. And it is certainly no coincidence that nearly 80 percent of the suicide cases and accidental deaths occurred in kitchens and the daughters-in-law were the only victims[4]. Education and prosperity have only increased the practice of dowry. And prosperity has given rise to demands for costlier things. In fact, affluence is responsible for the system, she argues. All rich land-lords started the practice of giving riches to their daughters during marriage which slowly became a tradition among all of the society. Dowry system seems to be common amongst a section of Muslims too, though in the Shariah it is prohibited. The better the groom’s educational qualifications, the higher the demand is the dowry to make up for the “expense” incurred in his education. They prefer to call it “voluntary” aid from the bride’s family though. They name it the happiness of the bride’s parents. Though, among tribes, the dowry system works in the overturn direction – the groom’s family pays out money. Young housewife burnt alive for dowry by his husband, Woman ends a life due to dowry harassment, Woman killed for seeking dowry [2]&[4].

Worst Drawbacks

Dowry refers to a marriage practice in our society where gifts of cash or other valuable items are exchanged between the families of the bride & groom. Dowry is paid in the form of cash, furniture, jewelry, property etc and it is paid before or during the marriage ceremony, sometime after marriage. The custom of giving Dory has changed it is now more essential part of a good marriage and has taken a harmful form. This is a social practice carried out both in urban and rural areas in a different manner according to the expectation.

Violence’s related to Dowry:

  • Rape & beating
  • Acid throwing
  • Female infanticide
  • Forced suicide
  • Homicide (as bride burring)

According to researchers, that dowry is the common cause to raise the domestic violence. Laws & Implementation Strategies against Dowry Violence.

The best education is the best dowry. Parents are advised to educate daughters the best as the time has changed and it is the time that education has more value in the employment market and fields have been opened for women entrepreneurs. Amount of dowry may be invested for her secured future. Girls parents should help to report government or related authorities about the dowry demand by groom parents. Marriage with such boys should be discouraged as the demand for excessive dowry means they do not want a girl but money this would result to extortion after marriage by torture. Beside are arresting blacklisting in communities of dowry extorters most basics. Will help not only to deject, will also help other girl parents to keep away from such people.

Our younger generation should come forward to rectify this trend and reform the society. They should set an example by neither demanding nor offering a dowry. Those who demand dowry should be persuaded by explaining to then religious and Quranic commands. If they still persist in their evil demands, they should be socially boycotted and the matter reported to the police. Demanding dowry is a legal offense also anti-dowry comities should be set up. This will bring positive results for the unmarried daughters of the poor.
Dowry is considered as an illegal act and giving and taking dowry are penalized. The government should pass dowry prohibition rule violence against women and children. government and NGOs should work together to fight dowry problem and steps they should take against dowry are:

  • Activity against dowry
  • Creating awareness
  • Educating women about the legal right
  • Providing legal assistance
  • Campaigns against dowry
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