The concept of “dowry” is an age-old tradition where a gift or anything of monetary value is given to the future spouse by the bride or groom. The term was derived from the Latin “dotarium,” which later became the word “dowry.” It is similar to the word dower, which refers to a woman’s part of her husband’s property after his death.
What is the Dowry Prohibition Act?
The Act was introduced to prohibit the giving or receiving of dowry and the various punishments prescribed for this practice. The term dowry was initially confined to the demand for money before marriage. The definition under Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act was later amended to include acts of dowry after marriage.
Analysis of Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act
The definition of dowry under Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act is any property or “valuable security” that is given.
- By one party to a marriage to the other party to the marriage; or
- By the parents of either party to a marriage or by any other person, to either party to the marriage or any other person; at or before or at any time after the marriage in connection with the marriage of said parties, but does not include dower or mahr in the case of persons to whom the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) applies.
What constitutes Dowry under Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act?
1) Gifts or monetary value: According to the definition under Section 2 of the dowry prohibition Act, anything of value provided at marriage by a relative of the bride or groom is regarded as dowry. It makes no difference whether the item was intended for exclusive use or shared use with another person. Dowry includes things like furniture, accessories, clothing, jewellery, and vehicles.
2) Occasion: There are three occasions when dowry is applicable under Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act. The first before marriage, the second at the time of marriage, and then at any time after the wedding.
1) Customary gifts: Any payment that is made as a customary right or gift from parents or inlaws is excluded. A gift during the birth of a child will also not be covered under Section 2 of the dowry prohibition act.
2) Mahr in Islam: All Islamic marriages are legally obligated to include mahr as part of their religious custom. Mahr is not applicable under Section 2 of the dowry prohibition act as Muslim marriage is governed by Muslim personal laws.
Valuable security under Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act
The phrase “valuable security” refers to a document that creates, extends, transfers restricts, or extinguishes a legal right of a person. In this case, the dowry payment during the marriage will be a valuable security. The term “valuable security” is mentioned in Section 130 of the IPC as well as Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act.
Causes of Dowry
1) Social Structure: Indian society has always been a patriarchal one. The men always dominated the women, calling them the weaker gender. Women have always been considered a financial burden to the family, so dowry was given as something that increased the man’s value.
2) Illiteracy: Women were always confined to the four walls of the house. They did not receive proper formal education and were made to do domestic chores. Sending women out for work would make them bad wives, and as a result, they were married by paying high prices to men.
3) Financial Status: Dowry was given to show off one’s financial status in society. The tradition of providing a dowry during the marriage is more of an economic act or transaction involving the accumulation of wealth or money.
Effects of Dowry
1) Crime against women: Women who are unable to make the required dowry payment or further payments in the future are frequently harassed and mistreated. This has led to an increased crime rate and dowry deaths.
2) Standard of living: There is a lot of economic drain on either side of the family due to the highly-priced gifts or payments given during marriage. This lowers the standard of living for middle-class families
3) Gender inequality: The dowry system dehumanizes women by seeing them as commodities that may be traded rather than as individuals. A bride’s family is required to reimburse the groom’s family for the expense of caring for the bride.
1) As per section 3 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, giving and taking dowry is punishable by a minimum five-year sentence and a fine of Rs 15,000 or the dowry’s value
2) According to Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, receiving dowry from either marriage partner is punishable by imprisonment for at least six months or a fine of up to Rs 15,000.
3) Cruelty is defined as a crime and an offence under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. Anyone who subjects a woman to cruelty, whether it is her husband or her husband’s relative, is subject to a fine as well as a jail sentence that can last up to three years.
4) The term is also defined as willful and unjustified behavior of any kind that endangers life, limb, or health, whether physical or mental, or gives rise to a reasonable perception of such risk under Section 304b of the IPC.
Is the demand for Dowry a ground for Divorce?
The demand for dowry falls under the term “cruelty” and is considered a valid ground for divorce or dissolution of marriage. The actions of either spouse should be of a kind that would fall under the term “cruelty” in the eyes of the law. In a number of cases and instances, Indian courts have condemned the practice of taking dowry and provided relief for victims.
As a result, any individual may file for divorce for dowry demand in accordance with the provisions stated above. This is possible with the help of a divorce lawyer and good family law advice.
Dowry is and has always been an evil practice that continues to be an issue in many parts of the country. As described under Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, it refers to a payment made during marriage to the groom’s family, which has completely corrupted the Indian marriage system.
To resolve this issue, it would be helpful to raise awareness, provide women with economic independence, and ensure that dowry prohibition laws are stringent. Further, victims who suffer at the hands of abusive marriages must be given relief.