Dowry is giving money, property or any other material goods by the bride’s family to that of the groom’s family. They have a vast history in many parts of the world including India. Dowry incidents often lead to crimes against women of the likes of violation and exploitation of women which sometimes results in their deaths or leave them in a severely injured state. Thus, leading to the formation of laws and amendments in already existing laws to prevent dowry. Though there are laws to protect the bride’s family from dowry still the illegal practice continues. Dowry has been declared illegal in the Indian subcontinent under the anti-dowry laws.
PRESENT SITUATION OF DOWRY:
Payment of dowry is now prohibited in India and many laws and amendments have come up since 1961 to prevent and eradicate dowry. Though it is declared illegal incidents of dowry do make a recurring appearance. Cases regarding dowry deaths and murders are often reported and they remain unchecked and undetected in many parts of India and it often creates a stir in the masses of people. Still, domestic violence of wife by husband and his family persists. Sometimes, through the medium of give and take the grooms family tries to manipulate the number of goods which to an extent is dowry and this secretively demanding the dowry has become a problem in the modern era. Though with the protection is being provided to the bride’s family in order to prevent dowry often incidents of abusing the laws have also come up. Therefore, magistrate’s approval is required before the arrest as the rise in a number of false cases is witnessed.
Women often are the target of the dowry-related abuse be it mentally or physically. It is some scenarios it is used as a threat so as to extract more property or money from the bride leaving the bride in a vulnerable situation. Northern and Eastern state of India often witnesses high cases of dowry crimes in India. Dowry crimes include physical torment to emotional torment to even murders and sexual assault.
CRUELTY– torturing or harassing the women with the aim to force her to meet a demand for dowry in the form of property or cash or any other material goods in the form of dowry crime. It may be verbal or physical including beating her or even driving her to give up her life.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE– it includes a wide range of abuse of the likes of physical, verbal, abusive or even to the extent of sexual violence along with coercion, intimidation or isolation.
ABETMENT TO SUICIDE– when the abuse becomes unbearable by the women due to the demands of dowry it might lead her to take her life which often results in the abetment of suicide is the extension along with dowry crime. Impact of dowry may lead to emotional trauma for the women as well as abuse. This offence is important as often the defence that women committed suicide at her own violation which is often false than not.
DOWRY MURDER- it simply means the death of the bride either by suicide or at the hands of her husband or his family after marriage due to being unsatisfied with the dowry. Dowry death other than poisoning or committing suicide includes bride burning and are considered as being the most common form of dowry death. India records the highest numbers of dowry deaths according to Indian National Crime Record Bureau. Section 304B of Indian Penal Code deals with dowry death. It says that if the death of women if caused by burns or injury on the body or occurs any other way within seven years of her marriage under normal circumstances and it is shown the before to her death she was subjected to violence or harassment by her husband or his family member such death is dowry death and whoever commits it shall be punished with a term not less than seven years and that may extend to life imprisonment.
Essentials include-death should be caused by bodily harm or burns and under normal circumstances. The crime should be within seven years of marriage, cruelty should be in connection with a dowry, cruelty should be subjected before her death and her husband or his family is held accountable.
This offence is cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable and trial by a court of session.
LAWS RELATED TO DOWRY:
First law relating to dowry came on 1 July 1961 through dowry prohibition act, 1961. It marked a legal framework of dowry harassment laws to try to eradicate dowry and prevent it. There are laws relating to stop offences of cruelty by the husband or his relatives, new provisions were added like 498A to Indian Penal Code and section 198A to criminal procedure code, 1983.
DOWRY PROHIBITION ACT, 1961– many anti-dowry laws were passed under this act. It in its sections tells that giving and taking dowry may lead to imprisonment for a minimum of 5 years and a fine of more than 15,000/- or the value of dowry which may be higher. Dowry in the act is defined as any valuable security or property given as or agreed to be given in connection with marriage though it is not extended to presents or gifts. The liability for taking and giving dowry directly or indirectly is not less than six months and extendable up-to two months. These agreements are void-ab-initio and the valuables have to transferred to the women if not done earlier. The burden of proof lies on the defendant, not the victim. There have been several amendments in the act as well as maintenance of a list of presents to the bride and bridegrooms act, 1985 is there.
CRIMINAL STATUES– Indian penal code, code of criminal procedure and evidence act. The criminal laws were amended so as to include dowry as a punishable offence. Section 304B was added to IPC, 1860 which termed dowry death as a specific criminal offence. Further 113B of evidence act 1872 makes a presumption of dowry death when it is shown women suffered cruelty before. These two sections help convict many those who escaped the dowry prohibition act, 1961 and 113A makes similar presumption regarding abetment of suicide. This all should be within seven years of marriage. Murder charges are also included under 302 of IPC and the death penalty can be imposed. Section 406 of IPC can also be applied to help recover dowry. Section 498A of IPC was specifically added to protect women from harassment and cruelty. But the facts under this section has to be made by police or the complainant.
PROTECTION OF WOMEN FROM DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT, 2005- it is an additional layer for protecting women from dowry as it covers all sorts of violence. Section 3 specifically includes all harassment, cruelty in link with the dowry. It also prohibits a person from committing domestic violence.
HOW TO FILE A DOWRY CASE:
1.a local police station must be visited then an oral complaint is filed where the victim gives a signature to acknowledge the offence after that an FIR is lodged after the police make an investigation after taking the cognizance of the offence. Lastly accused is notified and their statement is taken though they can be arrested after the approval of magistrate/committee. An immediate arrest can be made in exceptional situations like visible bodily injury.
DOWRY AROUND THE WORLD:
Dowry is not only practised in India it is spread across various parts of the globe. But the world has seen changes in the dowry system around the world as well.
BANGLADESH– originally bride price prevailed in Bangladesh, called pawn where the groom’s family makes payment to the family of the bride. This was later replaced by dowry in the 1960s. And since Bangladesh has seen a rise in dowry. It is a serious problem in Bangladesh and dowry death is on the rise and all forms of cruelty are seen though dowry prohibition act clause 4 states that person demanding dowry has committed crime though punishment is not mentioned by the clause
NEPAL– this practice is common in Nepal and is a matter of social prestige. Dowry violence is especially present in Terai Belt but Nepal has outlawed dowry under social custom and practises act.
SRI LANKA– payment of dowry has a strong tradition here and has been connected to family violence. Though violence related to dowry is not so persisting here.
Dowry has been a practice which has been prevailing since a long time but with the efforts of our laws, it is somewhat restrained even though often dowry cases come up the offenders do not go unpunished. With these acts and knowledge and awareness about these laws, dowry is a practice that can be fought with. Our country has come a long way dealing with this problem and with the incorporation of the relevant laws and amendments, there is justice for all. If these acts are not abused and taken advantage in a right and just manner, they can prove to be quite effective.
Author: Lavanya Goel,
Symbiosis Law School, Noida