The dowry menace
Mohammad Hussain Khan
The system of dowry must be as old as institution of marriage itself. It must also have been a universal practice. In a way, there is nothing wrong in giving voluntarily gifts to the girl by her parents, relatives and friends out of sheer love, concern and affection at the time of her marriage.
Moreover, all the parents want to give some presents to their daughter when she is leaving their home to start life afresh. And there is nothing bad abnormal or unusual about it. It can be termed as a simple token of life that will later on remind the girl of her near and dear ones. Symbols of their sentiments that will revive her old memories sweet remembrances that she will cherish throughout life.
But it is very unfortunate that as time went by this innocent practice has taken devils form whose cruel clutches pounce upon the girls almost everywhere. As such dowry has come to be considered an evil, a curse which crushes the very life of the girls. Beg, borrow or steal hardly matters but the parents of the girl must give a good dowry to their daughter.
Indeed, a situation has emerged in the society wherein dowry payments are taken as symbols of high social rank of the family and are not deemed as illegal or unethical nor even seen with disapproval by the people in society. Even the people who have experienced the pinch of the evil system in the marriage of their daughters, remain keen to get dowry in the marriages of their sons.
It is said that marriages are made in heaven and celebrated on earth. But then how can heavily made marriages meet such horrible treatment and such a hellish end! The very thought of the treatment given to dowry victims makes one tremble all over. What a mockery of marriage!
The bride of yesterday lies, today, dead on the floor, soon to be dragged either to the kitchen where her clothes caught fire from the gas, or to be taken to the bathrooms where she puts kerosene on her clothes and set them on fire or to be thrown down from the roof of the house. Gone are the days when it is used to be said that it takes two to make marriage a success and only one to make it a failure. But today the drama of success or failure is conditioned to meet the hydra headed demands of the dowry seekers. It is really tragic that in a progressive world of today, the evil of dowry continues to exist in all its horrid forms. Many homes are broken and several families are driven to ruin only because they are too poor to afford a rich dowry.
Previously in the selection of the bride, her family background, her personal tastes, talents, education etc. used to be the primary considerations. But now dowry is the first and the last, rather the only consideration. It seems as if in the marriage market the boys are put to auction and anybody who bids the highest gets him.
Under the circumstances, no wonder that some parents have to incur heavy debt for giving dowry rather for buying bridegrooms for their daughters.
At times, they remain under debt for the whole of their life. Sometimes, the girl’s parents fail to raise the necessary funds of marriage. Out of sheer disgust and despair they commit suicide. Not only this, seeing their parents sad and depressed because of dowry, many of the daughters also commit suicide, thus leaving the parents strained and shattered for the rest of their life. Certain girls even choose to remain unmarried as they never want to be the victims of the killing cruelties of those butchers. Nothing surprising, therefore, that even today the birth of the daughter is not considered to be a welcome one.
No doubt, in the recent past government has taken some anti-dowry steps. In some states, dowry has been made a cognizable offence. But merely making of laws does not mend matters till the people are really ready to act accordingly. As such we have to create a social setup which condemns giving and taking of dowry.
Dowry givers and dowry seekers should be socially outcast. The government should take strict measures to enforce the law in the right spirit. Nobody, however highly placed, should be allowed to violate the law of the land. Expenses at the marriage should be cut down. Extra decorations should be deleted. And the marriage rites should be performed as simply as possible.
Above all a strong public opinion has to be created in the society against dowry. The social reformers must provide the lead. The educational institutions should awaken the desired spirit among the youth. They should take a solemn pledge but they should neither seek dowry nor give it. Mass media should be used efficiently to create anti-dowry attitude in the people. There is no doubt that the custom is heartless. They dowry system has to go. Any young man who makes dowry a condition of marriage discredits his education and dishonours woman hood.
(The author can be reached at [email protected])