Not a single day passes without the report on Dowry deaths. Dowry has not disappeared and it is just morphed and women continue to pay the price. Dowry bashing seems to be in fashion once again. I am not justifying the practice but I would advocate a sober look at it. There is no question of dowry in a love marriage — the minute this topic is discussed, it transforms into an arranged marriage. Most demands for dowry are not out of greed for wealth but necessitated by circumstances. The fact remains that despite changes in the law, growing awareness of it, more education, economic progress, and women are bought and sold for a price under the institution of marriage. The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 amended in 1984 and 1986, made dowry a recognisable and non-bailable offence. But despite being illegal (except in north-east India, where dowry does not exist), it is becoming more rampant and entrenched. Touchy as we Indians are about a whole host of things, the fact that women are still being burned for dowry in modern-day India should enrage us. The bane of dowry is not confined to any one section of Indian society. For the rich, together with the most opulent weddings, the dowry given is a status symbol that cements their power and prestige. For the poorer sections of society it is conflated with a basic sense of honour. A practice that conflates its women with gold, silver and furniture is absolutely reprehensible. Simply having anti-dowry laws has proved hugely inadequate – urgent emphasis needs to be put on enforcement.
Vinod C. Dixit
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)