January 23, 2022

Dowry System: A Menace


Marriage is an integral part of society, a source of joy and festivities as well as of new beginnings. Yet, one of the longest standing evils associated with marriage from a woman’s point of view in the Indian society is the Dowry system. Despite a lot being said and done against the custom, it is still prevalent in the 21st century, in both subtle and obvious ways. The word ‘dowry’ means the property and money that a bride brings to her husband’s house at the time of her marriage[1]. “The institution of dowry ,in one form or the other, could be traced to the ancient days. At the beginning it was voluntary custom, but later on took the shape of a tool to exert pressure on the bride and her parents, in the name of social practice and honour. The dowry at present is a source of both joy and curse in the society. It is also a joy to the husband and his relatives who get cash, costly dress and utensils, furniture, bedding materials, etc. But, it is a curse to the bride’s parents who have to bear enormous cost to satisfy the unreasonable demands of the bridegroom’s party. A demand of dowry does not diminish even after marriage. The in-laws of the bride are very much ready in Indian homes to inflict harassment, insults and tortures-both mental and physical. When more pressure is put on the bride’s parents, their dear daughter has no other option but to commit suicide to avoid more insult and torture at the hands of the members of her husband’s family.

Keywords: dowry, dowry prohibition act 1961, dowry death, marriage, social practice and family honour.


“Who makes dowry a pre- condition for his marriage, not only shows disrespect to women but also humiliates his own nation, education and womanhood and such young person’s should be socially boycotted”.

Mahatma Gandhi.

What is dowry?

If we talk about dowry it is nothing but exchange of wealth between the bride’s family and the groom’s family. Scholars have loosely defined today’s notion of dowry to be “movable or immovable property that a bride’s father or guardian gives to the bridegroom, his parents, or his relatives as a condition to the marriage, and under duress, coercion or pressure”, or “cash, consumer goods, and jewellery that a wife brought with her to her husband’s household.”

The concept of dowry has evolved into a completely different notion than tradition once prescribed. A brief background on the evolution of dowry will help us spotlight on the modern status of women in Indian society and the society’s efforts to control this status. No blame game is going to help at this juncture. The problems must be identified and a solution has to be worked upon positively!

Women in all societies are the transmitters of history, customs and traditions of their people. From womb to tomb, women are made to pay dearly for their womanhood, and unless some steps are taken to make people appreciate. Discrimination against women begins even before her birth. ― Original sin in the Garden of Eden was Woman‘s, she tasted the forbidden fruit, tempted Adam and has been paying for it ever since. In Genesis, the lord said, ‗will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shall bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee‖. Women are the greatest gift of God to humanity. She possesses the power to create what is good and destroy what is bad. Tulsidas; Kalidas, and Surdas, the great Indian poets, were also inspired by their better halves in their literary ventures. Women produce children; women are mothers and wives; women do the cooking, wending , sewing and washing; they take care of men and are subordinate to male authority; they are largely excluded from high status occupations and from positions of power. These generalizations apply, to some degree, to practically every known human society.

India the second highest populous country of the world comprises women as half of its total population. Women of ancient India, especially during the Vedic and Indus Civilization, received a great Devine honor and were worshipped as Goddesses as a part of society she used to perform her independent role, as she was given more prominence in decision-making in the social institutions. Even going by the great epics we find that the position of women was not only on par with that of men, but it was also an authoritative one. Practices like Swayamwara where the women had the freedom to choose her husband from the vast choice on the one hand of a lady in marriage was in practice she was not only a homemaker, but also a decision maker in the early society. Politically also women stood on the same footing as that of men despite the fact that Manushastra had accorded a very low status to women. Later on gradually her position slipped into the abyssal depths that deprived her of independent social, economic and political and thereby made her dependent on the male member of her family. Man and woman are both equal and both play vital roles in the creation and development of their families in particular and the society in general. Indeed, the struggle for legal equality has been one of the major concerns of the women‘s movement all over the world[2].

In India, since long back, women were considered as the oppressed section of the society and they were neglected for centuries. During the national Struggle for Independence, Gandhi gave a call for emancipation of women. He wrote- ―I am uncompromising in the matter of women‘s rights. The difference in sex and physical form denotes no difference in status. Woman is the complement of man, and not inferior‖. Thus, the first task in post-independent India was to provide a constitution promises to secure to all its citizens- ―Justice-social, economic and political.


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 of paraphernalia) and was known as paraphernal property or extra-dotal property.[3] 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.


The main aim of this paper is to understand the concept of dowry death and for suggesting measures for its abolition completely in india.

I. To know their view on causes/purposes of dowry.

II. To access the level of dowry practiced by them.

III. To study and analyze how the concept of dowry changed with the passage of time.

IV. To find out the causes for the acceptance of such a cruel practice by the society.

V. To sociologically analyze whether there is possibility of misuse of the provisions relating to dowry.

VI. To examine the socio-cultural aspect related with the system of dowry.

VII. To study the various modes adopted by the bride or her in-laws to end her life.

VIII. .To analyze the number of dowry death, dowry murder, suicide, dowry violence and crimes under dowry Prohibition Act in the study area.

Keywords: dowry death, Indian scenario, law, money, society.


1. Whether There is no significant decrease in matrimonial crime rates even after the legislation of dowry prohibition laws in india.

2. Whether There is a significant decrease in matrimonial crime rates after the legislation of dowry prohibition laws in india.

Dowry system in Indian Marriages can be called the commercial aspect of the marriage. The practice of giving dowry was very common among all people of all nations. A girl gets all the domestic utensils that are necessary to set up a family. Dowry system in India was prevalent since the Vedic period. In Epic period gifts from parents, brothers and relatives and relatives were recognized as women‘s property stridhan. According to Kautilya ―Means of subsistence or jewellery constitutes what is called the use of property of the woman. It is no guilt for a wife to make use of this property in maintaining her son her daughter-in-law or herself if her absent husband has made no provision for her maintenance‖. [3]Since British rule till date efforts are being put to root out one draconian evil from Indian society that is dowry system but in spite of huge efforts cornered, evil persists in all 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 permitted 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.

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 feticide 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 cannot 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.

The rising incidences of crimes and violence‘s against women are compounded by the massive challenges of caste, ethnic, conflict, religious and revivalist forces. Because of illiteracy and poor out-reach of legal services; women are more often than not ignorant about their rights. In fact there is over whelming evidences to indicate a wide gap between the constitutional mandates and disturbing trends in social reality. The governmental apparatus and society do not appear to have come to terms with the implications of this study area.

Since the scope of domestic violence against women is very wide, the researcher has confined the study only to the dowry related offences covered under sections 302,304-B, 306, 34,498-A of IPC and the relevant provisions of the Dowry Prohibition Act and the new laws on the Dowry violence .Cases on only dowry related offences.



The Indian Penal Code (I.P.C.), Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and Indian Evidence Act (I.E.A.) under the criminal law (Second Amendment) Act, 1983 and by President of India to deal with dowry death cases and of cruelty caused to married women .


At the point when the passing of a wedded lady is caused by any consumes or substantial damage or happens under irregular or suspicious conditions inside seven years of her marriage span and it is obviously appeared that soon before her demise she was subjected to cold-bloodedness or badgering or torment by her better half or any relative of her spouse or in laws for, or in association with, any interest for settlement, such passing should be called as “settlement passing”, and such spouse or relative or in law s esteemed to have caused her demise. Whoever confers endowment passing might be rebuffed with detainment for a term least of seven years which may reach out to detainment forever.


This section speaks about cruelty caused to women by husband or relative of the husband. Whoever being the spouse or the relative of the spouse or in law of a lady, subjects such lady to cold-bloodedness or provocation or torment might be rebuffed with detainment for a term International Journal of Pure and Applied Mathematics Special Issue 1685 which may reach out up to three years and to pay fine. The mercilessness can be either mental or then again physical torment which drives the ladies to confer suicide or to cause genuine damage, or on the other hand threat to life or wellbeing.


This section deals with presumption of abetment of suicide of a married women2 . At the point when the inquiry is whether the commission of suicide by lady had been abetted by her better half or any relative her better half and it is demonstrated that she had conferred suicide inside a time of seven a long time from the date of her oversee and her spouse or such relative of her better half had subjected to remorselessness, the court may assume, having respect to the various conditions of the case, that such suicide had been abetted by her better half or by such relative of her better half.


This section deals with presumption of dowry death. At the point when the inquiry is whether a man has conferred the share passing of a lady and it is demonstrated that soon before her demise, such lady had been subjected by such individual to remorselessness or provocation for, or in association with, any interest for endowment, the court might assume that such individual had caused the share passing.



In this case it was held that the amount paid by Mohammedan in connection with daughter’s marriage, to future bridegroom for buying of property in joint names of daughter and would be son-in-law is not ‘dowry’ within the meaning of section 2. Therefore, the giving or taking of property or valuable security must have some connection with the marriage of the parties and a relation between the giving and taking of property or valuable security with the marriage of the parties is essential.

· S. Gopal Reddy v. state Andhra Pradesh[5]

In this case the Supreme Court stated that the demand, though it was made prior to the marriage has to be considered as offence under section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act. In this case the court stated that, mere demand of dowry is enough to bring home the offence to an accused and that any demand of property or money made from the bride or her relatives by the bridegroom or his parents or vice versa would fall in the troubles of dowry under section 4 of DV Act.

· Satvir Singh and Ors v. State of Punjab and Anr [6]

In this case supreme court stated that, in the cases of dowry death, the circumstances of harassment and cruelty to the victim have to been seen soon before her death. The expression ‘soon before death’ used in section 304-B of IPC is present with the idea of proximity test. No definite period has been indicated and this expression is not defined. The determination of period soon before is to be determined by the Courts depending upon facts and circumstances of the case. Normally the expression ‘soon before’ would imply that the time should not be much between the concerned harassment or cruelty and the death of deceased. On proof of necessary in section 304-B, it becomes essential on the court to raise an assumption that the accused caused the dowry death.

· Yashoda and another v. State of M.P[7]

In this case the Supreme Court says that, the presumption shall be raised, such cruelty or harassment was for or in connection with, any demand of dowry or, such harassment or cruelty was soon before her death.


· Whether There is no significant decrease in matrimonial crime rates even after the legislation of dowry prohibition laws in india.

Even thought dowry has been illegal in india since 1961, it is still prevalent. Actual numbers are not known, but anecdotally about 99% of the weddings in my family and friend’s circles involve dowry. Still, it’s rarely reported as a crime because girls has became a burden for family members and the parents of girl want girls to be married as soon as possible and that’s why they are ready to pay the amount which is asked by the groom family. This is the one reason behind the existence of dowry till now.

The despicable custom has assumed an alarming proportion reducing the sacrament of marriage to just a merciless business transaction and has been the origin of many evils in the society. It tags a young maiden as an unwarranted liability and groom a saleable commodity and has become a socially established norm of draining the wealth from the family of the bride to that of the groom.

· Present scenario

The cases of dowry deaths have increased by 4.6% during the year 2014 over the previous year (8,083 cases). A total of 8,501 victims were reported under 8,455 dowry deaths cases in the country during the year 2014. 29.2% of the total cases of dowry deaths were reported in Uttar Pradesh (2,469 cases) alone followed by Bihar (1,373 cases). The highest crime rate in respect of dowry deaths was reported in Bihar (2.8) followed by Uttar Pradesh (2.5) as compared to the national average of 1.4.The cases registered under this Act have decreased by 6.2% during the year 2014 as compared to the previous year (10,709 cases). Maximum such cases were reported in Bihar (2,203 cases) followed by Uttar Pradesh (2,133 cases), Karnataka (1,730 cases) and Jharkhand (1,538 cases). The highest crime rate (9.6) was reported from Jharkhand as compared to 1.7 at the national level[8]. Bihar has the highest dowry death crimes. Marriages in Bihar are steeped in deep-rooted traditional practices, many of which are re-interpreted to align with the changing times. The dowry system is one such evil practice that has stubbornly resisted any change. With its roots traced to medieval times, the practice, though illegal, is an established trend in present Bihar.

Dowry system is that it is associated with the status of the parties to the marriage.

In Today’s society: marriage has becomes a business and it is mostly done by literate people who have attained higher education.


Dowry as well as bride price humiliate and dehumanize women in India. It is true that the increasing coercive character of dowry has led to a decline in the status of women. But it must be pointed out that contrary to popular wisdom; women do not have a higher status in those castes and communities where dowry and bride price is paid for them. Though laws are necessary to provide basic rights and to punish offenders, what is requires is a more holistic approach to dealing with the phenomenon of violence against women, particularly in Dowry and Bride Price. For all watching this, raise your voice against dowry. Resist taking and giving dowry. The practice of dowry abuse is rising in India. The most severe in ―bride burning‖, the burning of women whose dowries were not considered sufficient by their husband or in-laws. Most of these incidents are reported as accidental burns in the kitchen or are disguised as suicide. It is evident that there exist deep rooted prejudices against women in India. Cultural practices such as the payment of dowry tend to subordinate women in Indian society. Though prohibited by law in 1961, the extraction of DOWRY from the bride’s family prior to marriage still occurs. When the dowry amount is not considered sufficient or is not forthcoming, the bride is often harassed, abused and made miserable.

[1] Encyclopaedia Americana 321


[2] J Krishnamurthy (ED>) Women in Colonial India- Essays on survival, work and state. Oxford University Press (1989); KumKum Sangari and Suresh Vaid, Recasting Women: Essays in Colonial History, Kali for Women (1989).

[4] AIR 1986 Ker 48

[5] 1996 SCC (4) 596, JT 1996 (6) 268.

[6] 1319 0f 1998 & 123 of 1999

[7] 431 of 1997.

[8] Ashok Kumar V State of Haryana AIR 2012 SC 3025


The views of the author are personal only. (if any)

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