SEMINAR REPORT DOWRY SYSTEM Submitted by, 1. Introduction 2. What is Dowry? 3. History 4. Arranged Marriages and Dowry 5. The dowry system 6. Dowry System in India 7. What is Bride burning? 8. Dowry law in India 9. Dowry death new ruling India 10. Rising number of dowry deaths in India 11. Marriage as a financial transaction 12. Conclusion Introduction Today, Indian society is surrounded with many problems such as unemployment, illiteracy, population growth, terrorism, etc. Among these problems, a problem which is deep rooted in Indian society is the problem of dowry system.
It has become the every day news item, no day passes away when we don’t hear news relating to dowry death or dowry harassment. The irony lies in the fact that women in India are worshipped in the form of shakti, she is burned and harassed by her in-laws every day in one part of the nation or the other. Dowry, in ordinary sense, refers to money, gifts, goods or estate that wife brings to her husband in marriage The dowry has a long history in Europe, South Asia, Africa and other parts of the world. The system of dowry is deep rooted in the Indian society since the early days of the history.
This system prevailed in ancient Indian society, in ancient period dowry was the part of the ritual of kanyadan which was very different from modern- dowry. Among the eight types of marriages recognized by smritis, it was only in the Brahma marriage that father gave away his daughter, with such gifts and presents as he could afford, to a man of superior character . In the medieval period, the dowry, which was earlier regarded as dakshina (gift offered willingly), became an evil, father in order to marry her daughter had to offer money demanded by groom’s family.
In medieval times, the dowry system had engulfed the society at alarming rate, though it was practiced in the aristocratic and royal families. The extra ordinary pride which rich people took in their ancestry was mainly responsible for this development. The youth of the bluest blood were preferred as sons-in-law by a large member of peoples, as a consequence of which their value increased in the market . The evil, which targeted the aristocratic and royal families in the ancient and the medieval period, in the British and modern period it engulfed the entire society.
Time had came for the educated generation to speak against dowry. It should be understood as the need of the society to stop this evil practice. What is Dowry? A dowry (also known as trousseau or tocher or, in Latin, dos, or in Croatian and Slovenian, dota) is the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings to her husband in marriage. It contrasts with bride price, which is paid to the bride’s parents, and dower, which is property settled on the bride herself by the groom at the time of marriage. The same culture may simultaneously practice both dowry and bride price.
Dowry is an ancient custom, and its existence may well predate records of it. History Originally, the purpose of a dowry was to provide “seed money” or property for the establishment of a new household, to help a husband feed and protect his family, and to give the wife and children some support if he were to die. 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, hers alone.
This property was “beyond the dowry” (Greek: parapherna, the root ofparaphernalia) and was known as paraphernal property or extra-dotal property. Even in the oldest available records, such as the Code of Hammurabi, the dowry is described as an already-existing custom. Regulations surrounding the custom include: the wife being entitled to her dowry at her husband’s death as part of her dower, her dowry being inheritable only by her own children, not by her husband’s children by other women, and a woman not being entitled to a (subsequent) inheritance if her father had provided her dowry in marriage.
If a woman died without sons, her husband had to refund the dowry but could deduct the value of the bride price; the dowry would normally have been the larger of the sums. One of the basic functions of a dowry has been to serve as a form of protection 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. In Europe Dowry was widely practiced in Europe. In Homeric times, the usual Greek practice was to give abrideprice. Dowries were exchanged in the later classical time (5th century BC).
Ancient Romans also practiced dowry, though Tacitus notes that the Germanic tribes practiced the reverse custom of the dower. Failure to provide a customary, or agreed-upon, dowry could cause a marriage to be called off. William Shakespeare made use of such an event in King Lear: one of Cordelia’s wooers ceased to woo her on hearing that King Lear will give her no dowry. In Measure for Measure, Claudio and Juliet’s premarital sex was brought about by their families’ wrangling over dowry after the betrothal. Angelo’s motive for forswearing his betrothal with Mariana was the loss of her dowry at sea.
Folklorists often interpret the fairy tale Cinderella as the competition between the stepmother and the stepdaughter for resources, which may include the need to provide a dowry. Gioachino Rossini’s opera La Cenerentola makes this economic basis explicit: Don Magnifico wishes to make his own daughters’ dowry larger, to attract a grander match, which is impossible if he must provide a third dowry. One common penalty for the kidnapping and rape 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. Providing dowries for poor women was regarded as a form of charity by wealthier parishioners. The custom of Christmas stockings springs from a legend of St. Nicholas, in which he threw gold in the stockings of three poor sisters, thus providing for their dowries. St. Elizabeth of Portugal and St. Martin de Porres were particularly noted for providing such dowries, and the Archconfraternity of the Annunciation, a Roman charity edicated to providing dowries, received the entire estate of Pope Urban VII. As the French crown provided dowries for many of the women persuaded to travel to New France for marriages and settlement there, they were known as filles du roi (daughters of the king). In some parts of Europe, especially Eastern Europe, land dowries were common. In the County of Bentheim, for instance, parents who had no sons might give a land dowry to their new son-in-law. It was commonly given with the condition that he take the surname of his bride, in order to continue the family name.
The Portuguese crown gave two cities as dowry to the British Crown in 1661 when King Charles II of England, Scotland and Ireland marriedCatherine of Braganza, a princess of Portugal. They were Mumbai (Bombay) in India and Tangier in Morocco. In Victorian England, dowries were seen among the upper class as an early payment of the daughter’s inheritance. Only daughters who had not received their dowries were entitled to part of the estate when their parents died. If a couple died without children, the woman’s dowry was returned to her family. In some cases, nuns were required to bring a dowry when joining a convent.
In Asia Dowry is a common practice in many Asian countries, including Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. In India, where incidents of bride burning and dowry death acquired notoriety, the payment of a dowry has been prohibited under The 1961 Dowry Prohibition Act in Indian civil law and subsequently by Sections 304B and 498a of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). In India Dowry in the upper classes is also popular as Trousseau that is given away to the bride to wish her luck and help her settle into her new home using goods of utility, luxury.
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 accessories. There is a huge industry around Indian weddings for the privileged and rich who spend money on gifting these items with fanfare and pompous show. In fact, the art of gift packing is called Trousseau Packing. Dowry system is seen as a crime in India but even the most educated people in Indian society support it and harass brides for not satisfying dowry demands. In recent years there llegedly has been a rise in dowry deaths even when law enforcing organizations claim that the situation is under control. Arranged Marriages and Dowry We are all familiar with the story : boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy and girl gets married. For the majority of the western world, this is our ideal of a great beginning to a perfect marriage. It is important to realize that while India is very modernized in some aspects (i. e.. they lead the world in student’s math and science scores and produce the largest amount of engineers in the world) they still keep to the tradition of arranged marriages.
Marriages formed out of love AKA “love marriages” do happen in India but it is not the norm. It is an accepted fact that a person’s family will play a role in picking the marriage partner. While to many people raised in the west, this might sound odd. It is important to remember that in Indian society an arranged marriage is seen as an act of love. Since marriage is one of the most important decisions a person will ever make and because divorce is not accepted among most Indians, it is imperative that the marriage choice is carefully thought out and planned. How can a young person make such an important decision on his/her own?
Instead, the family (usually the parents) look for certain traits in a marriage partner. Some desirable traits looked for in both male and female are: matching levels of education, matching cultures, close parental cities, matching religions, and matching vegetarians/non-vegetarians just to name a few. Potential bride-grooms come under close scrutiny for several areas of the matching process. Do they have enough means to support the bride? Do they appear to be men who will make good husbands and fathers? Often, the bride will live with her in-laws after marriage in what is called a joint family.
Because of this, the groom’s family is also brought under close scrutiny. Do the women of the household seem well cared for? Do they have a big enough house for another person and grandchildren? Does the family have a good reputation? Potential brides also come under scrutiny by the boy’s parents. Since it is a commonly held belief that brides are the embodiment of that family’s honor and pride, the girl must be from good family and have good manners. She should be respectable and have no taint on her name. Does she have the makings of a good wife and mother? Does she want to work after marriage or stay at home?
There are so many factors to weigh, that I can not list them all. Often, this turns into an interview process where photos are provided of the boy/girl in question along with bio-data about his/her life and family. If that meets with approval, arrangements will be made for the parents to meet the boy/girl and their family. Traditionally, however, the bride and groom would not even see each other until the day of their wedding. Today, while most marriages are still arranged, times are changing. There is usually a small courtship period where the bride and groom can meet and talk under the careful watch of a guardian.
Also, if either one of the two do not want the marriage, it is likely to be cancelled. Very few family’s today “force” marriages upon their children. Of course, with any society, you have those people who just will not adapt and change. There are places in India where time has not moved forward. For those people, they carry on their lives as their parents have and their grandparents before them. Shockingly, there are still some forced marriages and child brides. Which brings me to the issue of the dowry system…. yes, folks it still exists.
Now before you make that grimace of distaste, let me tell you a little about it. The dowry system has been in place since before the written record and it has been used by parents in every country imaginable, including America in older times. The point of the dowry system was to provide for the bride should something unfortunate occur with her husband such as death or divorce. As you can probably imagine, daughters can be extremely expensive offspring. Parents had/have to make a mad scramble to get enough wealth and material goods together to see their daughter well taken care of by the time she is of marriageable age.
In Northern India, today this age can vary from 18-25 though exceptions do apply depending on socio-economic factors. As you can see, the dowry system was something originally honorable in intention and provided for the independent wealth of the bride in a time when she was unlikely to work outside of the home. Like many customs and traditions, time can alter their original meaning and purpose. While the dowry system is still in place, it has become more of a “bride-price” system.
The parents of a baby girl must come up with a respectable dowry (the term respectable is arbitrary, respectable dowry can be anything from $50 worth of material goods to $50,000 or more worth of material goods depending on the family’s standing in society). If a good dowry is not made, the girl is unlikely to have a “good” match. This again, is mostly arbitrary. A good match for a very poor family might be marriage of their daughter into a slightly better financed family or a good match for a middle income family might befinding a husband that is a doctor or engineer.
As you have probably guessed, there are very few brides who actually retain their dowry after marriage. In the most honorable of families the bride is allowed to keep certain items for her own use such as the bed and cooking pots she is suppose to bring with her and some of the jewelry. She is also allowed control over how the rest of the dowry is kept, spent etc. This situation is a very modern one and in place in very educated households. The most common form of use of the dowry is not meant to be dishonorable and is far more practical for many families.
More often than not, the bride’s dowry gets absorbed into the household for the greater good of the entire family. Perhaps a bride’s dowry may help provide food for the entire family over a lifetime, or allow the purchase of a refrigerator. For many families, they do not see anything wrong in this sort of dowry absorption simply because it aids the bride as well. Furthermore, if the groom’s family is better due to the dowry, the bride will enjoy a better life than perhaps her own mother did. Of course, there is always that dark side.
While these situations are becoming rarer, they still occur often enough to warrant some discussion on them. There are those families who will use the bride’s dowry as their own. Often in these situations, the bride’s dowry will be recycled for the groom’s sisters’ dowry. Sometimes, the groom’s family uses the bride’s dowry entirely for their own means and the bride does not benefit from it all. There have been horrible, true stories of the groom’s family agreeing to one dowry and after the bride is married (and I might add, no longer a virgin) demanding more from the bride’s parents.
Threats of divorce are often used to entice the bride’s parents to give more dowry. In a country where shame is brought down on the divorcee, parents of the bride will do whatever they can to save their daughters this shame. Occasionally, the threat of physical violence is used. There really is no way these type situations can end happily. Even if the bride’s parents are able to scrape together more dowry, they will not be able to continue doing so and in the end the bride is either sent home in shame or sometimes killed in an “accident”.