July 12: Since British rule till date efforts are being put to root out one draconian evil from Indian society that is dowry system but inspite of huge efforts cornered, evil persists in all its aspects everywhere in country. Problem is no more confined to one or two states or north Indian states but gained roots in the soil of Southern as well as Eastern states too.
Problematic part is that it made its way to all sections, classes, castes, societies and communities. It permeated even to tribal societies known for primitive egalitarianism and gender equality and to Muslim community too.
Strong legislation, laws and women’s movements, every attempt to resist it has been thwarted by the wide social sanction accorded to this illegal practice.
Roots of dowry date back to the time when man started living a civilized life. Originally it intended just to give a support and security to new couple who start their married life. It also signified an alternative to inheritance for woman. In periods of time it distorted its face and but its worst face comes to the fore in present society where parents pass their whole life under debt to pay dowry in the marriages of their daughters which also results in murders and suicides of the daughters. Rising dowry death toll in recent years reflects the grimness of the problem.
Reasons behind huge dowry demands are counted by experts mainly the lack of economic rights of woman, denial of property rights and basic civil rights such as right of marriage of own choice, land rights and education.
Social mental set up also works behind it such as in Indian society girls are considered a liability while boys as assets. Culturally sons are preferred. This accords a secondary social status to women. Nalini singh says that woman has ‘zero political status’ in family. They are considered of less productive value than man so dowry is considered to be a compensation for that ‘worth deficiency’.
Several surveys reveal that dowry cases have risen drastically within last 10 to 15 years. It is considered that dowry system was facilitated by economic liberalization. Sudden rise in dowry cases is also linked to the rising consumerist culture and according to the report of AIDWA, the natural tendency of human to have easy access to the consumer goods which was prompted by the varied choices of consumer goods available in the market. Heightened incidents of dowry can be attributed to the changing economic structure of society consequent social polarization.
Dowry is not the only problem of Indian society, attached to it is the whole bunch of corresponding evils. International women’s conference in Australia accepted that female foeticide is directly related to dowry. Middle and lower middle income groups who are not able to fulfill the demand of dowry think it wise to nip in the bud. Domestic violence is another consequence of this evil.
This colossal problem persists even after centuries, is mainly because stringent laws alone can not bring change at level of mentality of people for that mass movement needs to be initiated. Mass awareness is to be created. Hundreds of dowry deaths are closed as just kitchen accidents or suicides. Around 40 percent women married happen to be below eighteen years of age and illiterate thus not in position to assert themselves. Their voice remains unheard in society.
Lack of political participation due to social-economic constraints is another reason why woman has not been able to assert herself and protect against this evil. This is also considered the failure of male- oriented polity by some experts. Due to all these disadvantageous position of woman, we fail to solve this problem even after all attention and focus on it.
Women’s education and enhanced participation in political process, position in decision-making bodies will improve the situation. They need to be provided with shield of protection which should not be blunt like present laws but razor sharp that could really help them and prevent them from taking such extreme steps as taken by Pooja Chauhan of Rajkot.
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