The anti-dowry laws in India were enacted in 1961 but it continues to be highly institutionalized. Giving or taking dowry is an offence, punishable in India under the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961. It was not until 1983 that domestic violence became punishable by law.
The demands are still there but the recent trend is that it is demanded after the wedding has solemnized and is used as a blackmail tool. The bride is often threatened by her husband that if the dowry demands are not met , then he will divorce her. Also if the husband and his family are unsatisfied with the gifts/money he further harasses the bride, abuses her physically and mentally and along with his whole family tortures her.
The relaxed laws themselves have done nothing to stop dowry demands, harassment and the violence that is often associated with them. Most of the cases go unreported because of the stigma associated with it or the bride’s side is once again threatened that if they report it, dire consequences will be faced. Police and the courts are notorious for turning a blind eye to cases of violence against women and dowry associated deaths.
Two cases were reported from one town itself ( and I am sure several are unreported) .
The increasing number of dowry-related deaths has highlighted the fact that this immoral practice is rampant among the educated sections of urban society.
Case I: Sandhya Shankar gave both cash and a car as dowry before she got married to a well-educated family friend. Once married, her greedy in-laws started pestering her for more money.Unable to bear the constant bickering, Sandhya lodged a complaint against them recently.
Case II: Neha Mehta had a love marriage a few years ago, which soon turned into a nightmare. She was taunted and physically harassed by her husband and in-laws for not bringing in dowry at the time of marriage.But the fact remains that Neha gives a major chunk of her salary each month to her husband.
Sandhya and Neha are not the only ones who face dowry woes in the urban, upper echelons of our society.
Their husbands and in-laws are well-educated, hardworking people and seem far removed from the scheming and wicked in-laws of a rural setting that we have known.
Welcome to the harsh reality where highly-educated women, who are aware of their fundamental rights and can handle a balance sheet with ease, still hesitate to report instances of dowry harassment.
Darshan Shah, a psychiatrist, attributes the societal system as the main cause for the hesitation to revolt.The society we live in requires us to keep the entire issue hush-hush. Women are hesitant to report dowry related grievances for fear of public reactions.
Parents should extend full support to their daughters who stand up against such miserable acts. For Ila Pathak of Ahmedabad Women Action Group (AWAG) the fact that the educated indulge in the practice of dowry does not come as a surprise.
The more educated and rich one is, the greater are the demands, she says. But there are some who spurn such unscrupulous practices.
Like Shubha Nigam, a lecturer, who refused to sell herself when a highly-educated, rich yet greedy man asked for dowry.
Education aims to liberate but unfortunately, people have only managed to become literate, and not emancipated, she says. The Dowry Prohibition Act was implemented in 1961 and amended twice.
Yogesh Lakhani, an advocate says, Any kind of tangible demand made before or after the marriage by the groom or his family for the fulfillment of marriage terms . The nonfulfillment of which leads to consequential harassment should not be tolerated.
But till more and more women take recourse to the legal system, dowry will continue to remain a social menace.
Truly Kahani ghar ghar ki
The bitter and shocking reality is that dowry demands even presently exist in the urban society . The guilty party ie the husband and his family are out in the open enjoying- by escaping the laws. It clearly portrays that the so-called dowry law has provided no respite to the battered dowry victims.