Giving & Taking Dowry Is Illegal, So In 21st Century We Call It 'Gifts' And No One Questions It
There is a reason cases of female foeticide and killing of girl children is so common in Indian society. Here, when girls get married, the family has to send her to 'her new home' with dowry.
That’s one of major reasons girls are viewed as a burden on their families. That is also why they are called 'paraya dhan' .So, not only does the girl leave her home, the family she is going to, needs to be paid a big amount for that.
Enter, The Dowry Prohibition Act
With dowry came the Dowry Prohibition Act of the Indian law. It came into existence on May 1, 1961, and was intended to prevent the giving or receiving of a dowry, further amendments were made in the Act in 1986. Under the Dowry Prohibition Act, dowry constitutes property, goods, or money given by either party to the marriage, by the parents of either party or by anyone else in connection with the marriage. The Dowry Prohibition Act applies to persons of all religions in India, according to Britannica.
Dahej pratha, version 2.0
Today, families that indulge in giving and taking of dowry can be sent to jail. On paper, dahej pratha no longer exists; no one gives dahej anymore. But do not be under the illusion that the bride doesn't pay the price.
There's a fancy term for it now - Gifts.
Today, weddings are no longer a one-day event; mehndi, haldi, sangeet are all different events to be celebrated with grandeur. And that grandeur extends to the gifts that accompany the new bride to her new home.
One of the ceremonies in Hindu traditional wedding is that of lagan. On this day the bride’s family brings fruits and gifts for the groom's family. There is dance and music and a serious ceremony involving a pandit where men from both sides of the family sit and pay attention to mantras.
Fruits toh theek hain but what are these ‘gifts’? Under the pretext of gifts, the groom is given a gold chain, a gold bangle, his mother given jewellery, his sisters and other relatives some other ‘gifts’. There is an exchange of cash too and not the usual 101 shagun ke paise, this one involves a lot more zeroes.
The shandaar car you see at the huge ass farmhouse on the wedding day is the dahej for the groom’s family who seemingly want a bigger car.
A girl is sent off with ‘things she might need at her new house’ and those things include all kitchenware items, lakhs and lakhs worth of jewellery, sometimes papers of actual property and cash. None of that is really for her; it is for the boy she is marrying, her in-laws and extended family. These are not gifts for the bride - let's call it what it is - dowry.
In many places in South India whether there is an exchange of ‘gifts’ is mostly dependent on how affluent the family is, but mostly it's jewellery.
While in most weddings in North India you will find that brides are no longer loaded in gold or diamond jewellery - much of it is artificial and rented - but in South India, brides are decked in gold jewellery from head to toe, and considering how much gold costs, the bride is going to her ‘new home’ laden with lakhs, literally.
Like I mentioned before, no one blatantly asks for dowry anymore. It is understood by the bride’s family that the price has to be paid in one form or another.
What is surprising and disgusting is the fact that if you call any of the families out on the exchange of ‘gifts’ they would get defensive and tell you how it is all about the girl, everything is to make HER comfortable and ensure an easy transition to the stranger’s home.
What is sone pe suhaga is that the cash and gifts given by immediate family members to the bride is not taxable in India, and even though a proposition was made back in 2017 to cap the amount of money spent on weddings, no such law exists.
Since these are just gifts to the bride or the groom, no one can question the practice, even if it occurs in broad daylight in front of cameras and on videos. This exchange of gift is celebrated, and not questioned.
In 21st century, when women are working and earning better than what they used to, even better than their male partners in some cases, when most of the women are capable of looking out for themselves, then what is the need to ‘make her comfortable’ in the new home? The ghost of dowry should be flushed out of the Indian system completely - only then will poor of the nation stop looking at their new born girl child as a burden, only then will the girl stop feeling like a ‘bojh’ on her family. We need to call these ceremonies, events and ‘gifts’ out for what they are - illegal and insulting.
*All views expressed in the article are the author's own and do not express the views of Indiatimes.
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