The social evil of dowry today has literally become a ‘burning issue’. A hapless newly-wed bride who does not bring rich booty in the form of dowry to satisfy the greed of her in laws, is an easy prey to the sadism and pyromania of her parent-like-in-laws and sometimes, her very own husband. Newspapers and magazines mind greedily over dowry-burning, bring out full page editorial on the burning social problem and yet, the issue is every green for making more headlines and for spilling platitudes on the pages. ‘Investigations’ go on in the matter without any progress being made an, meanwhile, as fresh case crops up. More often that not the whole event is passed off an ‘accident’ or suicide and, to put it tongue in cheek, the accident is never really ‘unfortunate’ for the ‘had been’ in-laws and the husband. The ‘poor’ husband has open opportunities for becoming rich once for, once more, he is eligible in the marriage market. Truly enough, if for nothing else but only ‘dowry deaths’, we are living in the proverbial ’Kalyug’. Have we ever reflected upon the abysmal depths of avarice and depravity that we have stooped to?

The dowry system prevalent in our society is not merely a social evil but a poison, a curse and a cancerous ailment that needs immediate control and cure. The practice of giving and taking dowry, its accompanying features and after-effects are subconsciously leading the society towards depravity. The sanctity of the institution of marriage is being violated and made sanctimonious. Marriage has come to be reduced to a business transaction and a deal to be struck with those girls parents who are somehow able to make the highest bid. A ‘price’ has to be paid for seeing one’s daughter getting married. The groom people issue, as it were tender notices and it is highest quotation of ‘price’ of a particular prospective bridegroom that clinches the marriage. So we can claim the dubious satisfaction that marriages, after all, are not made in heaven; in fact, they are the handiwork of dowry.

A son, whether he is an idiot or even a moron, is like a cheque that can be encashed through his marriage. The better placed he is, the more is his value. A doctor, an engineer an IAS officer, a postgraduate or a graduate, all have their price tags in various ranges. Besides hard cash, marriage also brings with it many perquisites to the prospective bridegroom which may be anything from a cycle or scooter to a TV, refrigerator, furniture, car, video or even a house. Many of matrimonial alliance has been snapped amidst the proceedings of the marriage ceremony due to the exorbitant and unreasonable demands made on the spur of the occasion or, sometimes, due to the inability of the girl’s parents to fulfil or comply with the conditions and demands made earlier.

It is important to understand the context and relevance of dowry as a practice and custom which dates back to ancient times, and could be found in almost every corner of the world. In ancient days, down to the Vedic times, and even later, dowry was a symbol of the setting up of a new home and the starting of a new life by the newly-weds. As a token of this, the daughter was given as many items of household requirements as the parents could happily give to see her settle down comfortably in life along with her husband. Monetary assistance was also given sometimes to see both man and wife settle down well in life The same practice is still followed in many parts of the world. Furthermore, dowry established an equity between daughter and son, as the son’s had sole right in inheriting property etc. However, the very spirit of the custom of dowry has been burnt at the stake of greed and vitiated for unscrupulous and ulterior ends. On the one hand, we preach and vouch on the equality of the sexes, dignity and respect for women and the important role of women  in the society, on the other hand we make our young women the poverbial sacrificial lambs on the altar of marriage for which their hapless fathers have to pay a price. The parents of the bride have to murder their dreams and ambitions of seeing their daughter happy, prosperous and well-settled. It cannot be merely passed off in the name of ‘paradox’ for it unfolds our unabashed ‘double standards’ and hypocrisy.

Indian women today are getting more enlightened, conscious, educated and economically independent. The notions that marriage is an ‘insurance’ and dowry a ‘premium’, that dowry gives confidence to a bride to enter her ‘in-laws’ houses are delusions and hold no water. This education and enlightenment in a way, has complicated the situation. Women are not ready to bear jeers and snide comments on their lack of dowry. They rebel, answer back and thus invite more abuse. However, they are not so self-confident that they can leave their husband. So they simmer and become bitter till they commit suicide or are burnt.

The psycho-socio-economic impact of the evils of dowry can be very managing. As a matter of fact, the very birth of a girl in the family is a depressant and is considered to be a curse in practically every community and religious group in India. A girl is always treated as an alien member and is made to suffer a repressed personality. The little self-respect she has is cruelly vanquished as she watches her father undergoing harrowing nightmares to get her married. Quite often a girl is the inadvertent cause of breaking up her parents home in the process of setting up a house for the son-in-law. The huge price paid by her father at the risk of her own life causes many a parental home to reach the stage of bankruptcy owing to enormous debts. The abject helplessness of the parents of the daughter finds many outlets-in alcoholism, in a state of utter frustration and despair, even in suicide and homicide. It leads to an unhappy marriage for the bride, and maltreatment, torture, maladjustment, dehumanization of the women and ultimately to divorce or suicide. The pity of it is that we ourselves design it all and then go on to blame our stars for it.

Economically a marriage in our society is not an extravagant affair, but also a happy hunting ground for the money-lenders and creditors. This is especially so in the vast regions of rural and remote India. Furthermore, it is an open secret that most of the transactions in present day marriages are made in black money so to escape the burdens of income tax, property tax, etc. Dowry is thus indirectly undermining our economy by encouraging black money.

It is indeed most shameful that Indian society has come to degrade its women. Today  many women are  being set aflame for the simple reason that she is an Indian women weak and meek by temperament. She is a bride one minute and a burnt corpse the next minute. It is time we stopped uttering commonplace remarks and took some concrete steps for the banishment of the blame of dowry from our society. Stringent laws and their rigid enforcement against the evils of dowry is required.

It has been found that public opinion is still in favour of the dowry system and whatever toughened legal stance was taken by the Central or State Governments it did not deter underhand dowry deals. More inter-caste, inter-religious, inter-regional, and love marriages should be encouraged for, not only will they bring about national integration, but also curb the practice of the giving and taking of dowry. The youth needs to be educated and taught about the evils of the dowry system so that they restrain themselves from accepting the status quo in this regard. More often than not, it has been found that it is with the compliance of the would-be bridegroom’s wishes, that the parents fix a price for bride. The sons are not only a party to the system, but sometimes have their own demands. As husbands, they themselves are responsible for all kinds of torture and inhuman treatment on their wives and encourage the other family members to do the same, all with the aim of raking in as much wealth and benefits as they can from the hapless parents of the hapless brides. All this is nothing but evidence of moral depravity and mental bankruptcy of our young generation of men. On the one hand, they criticize the customs, practices and conventions as outdated and evil, but on the other hand, they never mind the social evil of dowry which they explain as an established practice. If only our women realized that the present sex ratio of the country- 930 females for 1000 males is favourable to them and adopted a more positive and firm stance against the evil of dowry, more than half the battle against dowry system would be won.

It is heartening to know that the anti-dowry campaign is gaining in strength. It is essential for our society, and more so for the youth, to realize and understand that, after all, brides are not for burning. Better be a single man of substance, than a dowry-fed, ever-eligible bridegroom.

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