Dowry system is perhaps the gravest social malady of India today. While other social evils like untouchability and caste system are on the wane, the evil of dowry system is assuming an alarming dimension. Even the enactment of the Dowry Prevention Act by the Central Government has failed to check the shameful practice.
Dowry reduces the blessed affair of marriage to a business deal. It turns the brides into a marketable commodity like cattle in the market of marriage. Love, freedom, dignity-stand ridiculed in the bargain of business though we know fully well that offering dowry and accepting it are both punishable and insulting to our womenfolk. Occasionally some educated girls decline to marry, as there is a demand for cash or dowry in some other kinds. But these are exceptions.
Generally, the parents of the brides are often put to inhuman pressure for a handsome dowry. Sometimes they have to sell all their properties to get their daughters married and become paupers. In many cases, young brides are treated with inhuman torture or pushed to suicide or homicide by the husbands and the in-laws so that the groom can marry again and endanger the life of another innocent girl. Maltreatment or bride-burning are gruesome cases that frequently appear in the daily newspapers.
Some times severe punishment is inflicted on the offenders. But only a few of the events come to light and the law-courts. Nowadays some grooms prefer career girls. This is also some kind of dowry as they are forced to forego their salary for their father-in-law’s family. Thus thousands of young women are sacrificed at the altar of the dowry system every year. And that is why the girls are regarded as a liability in our society and the birth of a daughter is looked upon as an unwelcome evil by the poor parents.
To eradicate this social evil, the total change in the outlook of the society is a must. A woman has to be recognised as an equal partner of man. Legal prohibition of dowry is not enough. How can law cure greed and lust for money? The strong social rejection of dowry is the only guarantee against this evil. So long as women remain backward and economically dependent on men, the curse of dowry system cannot be uprooted. Education and employment for women alone can bring about the right remedy.
Strong legal measures should be taken against the offenders. But what is more effective is that our youths should lead the movement to generate public opinion against this shameful custom as it is an insult to human dignity. The press, the radio and the TV should make a concerted campaign against it. The right-thinking people of our society should also come forward to raise their voice against this social crime.
Finally, women themselves can vow that they won’t marry with a dowry. Women’s organisations should also be organised for creating mass awareness against such evil practice.