Answer: (Jarawa in Andaman, Lepcha in Sikkim,Jaunsari in Uttarakhand, Kondh in Orissa,
Bodo in Assam, Khasi in Meghalaya, Gond in Madhya Pradesh, Gaddi in Himachal Pradesh,
Rabari in Gujarat, Bhil in Rajasthan)
On an average, a bride is burnt every hour in the country, courtesy - dowry. This age old ritual has come a long way from being a token of love for the daughter to a social menace. Here’s an insight into the social evil that has commercialised nuptial vows
Dowry can be defined as the money, good or property that a woman brings to her husband at the time of her marriage. However, the definition of this social evil that has resulted in the death of countless brides goes way beyond and can be best described as a menace to the society.
The Hindu Shastras recommended that the bride be adorned with jewellery and then be gifted away, also known as ‘dana’ or ‘kanyadaan’. However, the act of ‘dana’ remained incomplete till the receiver was given ‘dakshina’, in this case the husband. Hence, the bridegroom was given something in cash or kind along with ‘kanyadaan’, referred to as ‘Varadakshina.’
The practice of dowry seems to have been fuelled to overcome the bias of the ‘mitakshara system’. The ‘mitakshara system’ or the law of inheritance prohibited women from getting any share in parental wealth. Hence, the system of favouring the daughter with handsome dowry seemed to have been introduced to overcome this restriction.
The Dowry Prohibition Act states, “If any person, gives or takes or abets the giving or taking of dowry, he shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years, and with a fine which shall not be less than fifteen thousand rupees or the amount equalling the value of the dowry, whichever is more.”
National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) figures state that 8,233 dowry deaths were reported in 2012 from various states. The statistics revealed that one woman dies every hour due to dowry related reasons on an average in the country. While 6,851 dowry deaths were reported in the country in 2001, the figure reached 7,618 in 2006 and touched 8,233 in 2012.
A state wise break-up provided in the statistics shows that the highest numbers of dowry deaths were reported in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
The high number of deaths is alarming in itself, but what is even more shocking is the low conviction rate. The conviction rate was 35 % in 2012. In 2012, the total number of cases on trial were 37,206 and 31,888 cases were still pending at the end of the year.
But to say that all is lost would not be true. Not even a single dowry death was reported in Nagland and Lakshadweep for the period 2002-12. Several anti dowry campaigns in the country have gathered steam. A significant step was taken in this direction by Nilamboor gramapanchayat, Thiruvanthapuram, that is taking several steps to make the village ‘dowry-free’. Several innovative initiatives have also put the spotlight on the need to eradicate this problem. One such initiative is ‘Angry Brides’, a game by Shaadi.com. This game involves a woman throwing household items on grooms who demand dowry.
Is this dowry?
For many, wads of cash is the only form of dowry. But this social evil exists in more than just one garb. Time to ponder if the following classify as dowry or can be passed off as ‘love for daughter’.
* If the bride’s parents gift a car to their daughter for her personal use.
* If the bride’s parents pay off a loan of the groom.
* Jewellery that is offered by the bride’s parents out of their own free will.
* A car, which is chosen by the groom as a wedding gift from the bride’s parents.
* “The wedding should be organised in a five star hotel only,” is demanded by the groom’s family.
* If the bride’s family says it cannot afford something and the groom’s family starts negotiating a ‘lesser deal’.
* “Our son will marry your daughter only if you get our daughter married to your relative,” is a pre-condition set by the groom’s family for the wedding.
An end to dowry
IPS Rannvijay Singh, the Commanding Officer of the district of Indirapuram, discusses the social evil of dowry and the laws associated with it in an exclusive interview
What is the general action taken when a dowry case is reported?
This is an issue affecting the society since the last two decades. It is a sensitive issue, which explains why amendments have been made time and again to the Dowry Prohibition Act. All organs of law enforcement system like the judiciary, police and jail take up immediate action as per law whenever a dowry case is reported. Separate hearing takes place to get an insight into the agonies suffered by the victim.
How many dowry cases are registered on an average?
The data varies from place to place, from one police station to the other. In areas like Ghaziabad, an urban district, people are sensitive, aware and report such cases to police stations. But in rural areas, people are unaware of dowry laws and prefer to stay mum about it. Besides, they lack avenues to register their complaints.
Have dowry laws brought down dowry deaths?
Yes, they have significantly controlled dowry deaths. The Dowry Prohibition Act has also helped a significant deal in this regard.
Are such laws misused?
Yes, sometimes false allegations are made and fake cases are lodged. Often facts are manipulated and a case ends due to lack of evidence.
What is the biggest challenge in dealing with dowry cases?
The biggest challenge is the collection of evidence, as in most cases it is in the form of oral evidences and statements. Cases of physical and verbal abuse are difficult to prove.