Much has been said about the condition of women in free India. Statesmen, politicians and women who spend their time in social service and women’s Organisations have been talking day in and day out about the appalling state of women in India . There are many evil practices prevailing in India. One of these evils is the dowry system.
When one stops to think how this system must have caught such strong roots in Indian society, one can find it to be born out of convenience. Several explanations are given for the prevalence of the dowry system. Some trace it to the custom followed by many kings of the past and princely chieftains when they gave away their daughters in marriage. It was felt that the life of the daughters should start on a convenient and happy note. So when they were sent to their father- in-law’s house they were given large gifts. The kings or princess or the aristocratic classes wished to give their daughters a gift that would be consistent with their own dignity and status. The motive behind this was to ensure the happiness of the girls in their new homes. This settlement was a revelation of a natural affection of a father towards his daughter. But in later times the practice took a new turn.
It is one of the weakness of human beings to follow what others had done before. Very often they choose from past experiences only what is convenient for them without stopping to think whether it is good or bad. Similarly, when they saw that gifts accompany girls when the latter went to their new home after marriage, some unscrupulous men began to make this practice a convention. They saw in this practice a means of earning some easy money for themselves. The pawn in their game was the helpless girl. Parents of eligible bachelors see in the girls parents a gold mine which has to be exploited to its full capacity. So they began to demand certain things from the girls parents. In this way, what started as a convenience and a matter of personal prestige turned out to be a custom. What was received by the bridegroom’s father as a gift in olden days took on the nature of a ‘demand’ in later times.
What was once a voluntary gift became transformed into a custom known as dowry. A curious explanation is given by some people who demand dowry for their sons. They cite economic conditions as reasons for their demand. Since they have to satisfy many relatives and friends they require large funds and it is this that they expect from the other party. They do not require it is for themselves! This explanation is quietly and conveniently forgotten when they have to give away their daughter in marriage and when such a demand as theirs is made by a boy’s father. In other words, they want to GET but not to GIVE. At such times they forget that economic conditions are the same for all people and are not their own special lot alone. In this manner, the dowry system has come to stay in our society. During the recent past it has become common to all levels of society. Even men with large property and high income demand dowry.
Greed for money and wealth thus perpetuates an evil. To a certain extent the girls themselves are responsible for this. The admirable qualities of obedience, tolerance and patience prove to be disadvantages to them under these conditions. They dare not oppose these practices and refuse to yield to the ‘demands’. In the case of the boys, they plead their helplessness and inability to oppose their father. The very same boys would have protested to their father and even fought for their liberty in matters like getting a scooter and other things.
Today, the dowry system has become a positive evil. Avaricious vultures ill treat their daughter-in-law in many ways. There are a number of what have come to be known as dowry deaths. Girls are tortured and sent back to their parents and are refused readmission into their father – in-law’s house unless they come back with the demands fulfilled.
The remedy, therefore, lies more in the hands of the younger generation. But society cannot wash its hands off the whole affair, leaving the responsibility on the shoulders of the young couple. Voluntary Organisations must come forward to educate the public on the evils of the dowry system and also see to it that those who are intransigent are bought to book. What the machinery of the Government cannot do effectively must be attempted and accomplished by these Organisations and by individuals with a sense of duty and service. The ways may be difficult, but the evil MUST be driven away from life. Unless it is done at the earliest the malady will pass on to the future generations and posterity would inherit this.