Dowry death can be defined as the death of a married women after her marriage who due to continuous harassment and torture by their husband or relatives (in-laws) is murdered or driven to suicide over a dispute about their dowry, making the women's homes the most dangerous place for them to be. It basically is an asset which is provided by the father to the daughter which mostly became the cause of her unstable married life and growing pressure of unsatisfiable demand for dowry which destroys a women’s life and leads to this heinous crime named Dowry Death.
Gender Inequality can always be noticed as a major drawback of Dowry Death’s in India, the cultural institution of dowry as practiced in India engenders violence towards women. This later takes the form of inter familial harassment on women for continuous demands of payments of goods and money and further makes the women’s life miserable in her own house leading to Dowry Death. The Gender Inequality in our society could have been noticed from ages ago, it kept on rising with time leading to the rising of such offences like Dowry Death in our country. Lack of gender neutrality in our society also corrupted our core encouraging such offences. Dowry was earlier considered a social security to women during a post-marriage crisis such as alienation by a husband or another marital conflict. In simplified terms it was a gift for the woman from her parents for her security or her needs, which with time was turned in the favor of the other party.
LEGAL PROVISIONS -
Section 304(B) of the Indian Penal Code states that if a woman dies within seven years
of marriage by any burns or bodily injury or it was revealed that before her marriage she was exposed to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any other relative of the husband in connection to demand dowry then the death of the woman will be considered as a dowry death. Punishment for dowry death is a minimum sentence of imprisonment for seven years or a maximum sentence of imprisonment for life. Essential requirements of Dowry Death are - Death should be caused by burns or bodily injury or by any other circumstances, Death must occur within the seven years of marriage, it must be revealed that soon before her marriage she was exposed to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any other relative, the cruelty or harassment on her should be in connection with the demand for dowry1. The Presence of the above requirements is mandatory for such an offence to occur which could be legally challenged by law. Some steps were taken to reduce the cases of dowry demand in our country like - Section. 8B Dowry prohibition officers:
1. the state government may appoint as many dowry prohibitions officers as it thinks fit and specify the areas in respect of which they shall exercise their jurisdiction and powers under this Act.
2. Every Dowry prohibition officer shall exercise and perform the following powers and functions, namely, -
(a) to see that the provisions of this Act are complied with,
(b) to prevent, as far as possible, the taking or abetting the taking of, of the demanding of dowry;
3. (c) to collect such evidence as may be necessary for the prosecution of persons committing offences under the Act; and
(d) to perform such additional functions as may be assigned to him by the state government, or as may be specified in the rules made under this Act.
4. The state government may, by notification in the official gazette, confer such powers of a police officer as may be specified in the notification, the Dowry Prohibition Officer who shall exercise such powers subject to such limitations and conditions as may be specified by rules made under this Act.
5. The state government may, for the purpose of advising and assisting the Dowry prohibition Officers in the efficient performance of their functions under this Act, appoint an advisory board consisting of not more than five social welfare workers from the area in respect of which such Dowry Prohibition Officer exercises jurisdiction under sub-section (1)
Gender neutrality should be clearly promoted in our society in order to trace our way to abolish these necessary evils among which falls this heinous crime “Dowry Death”. This crime is not only a barrier which harms a women’s life in a physical and Psychological way but indeed destroys her will to live. We often observe in cases the victim is either provoked towards suicidal ways in order to get the asset from her family or killed if she fails.
It can indeed be clearly observed that pseudo-modernization has always played a major role in promoting Dowry deaths in our country India. As we can understand that change is the nature of our society, an important assumption in this model of change is that traditions are impediments to the development of a modern society and are things of the past. Since the origin of pseudo-modernization could be observed from the beginning of our society in the earlier times when dowry was taken as a compulsory practice while getting married. It almost could be observed in such times that the exchange of dowry was indeed considered as a basic requirement for a marriage to occur and with the time being passed it still is, and can be clearly seen practicing not by direct means but indirect means. India is widely regarded as one of the most unsafe countries in the world due to the pseudo aspects of the society which lead to the downfall of women in our society criticizing them in regard to such unlawful practices. The society claims itself being modernized with time but are they actually modernizing when it comes to promoting such unlawful practices such as demanding dowry in India? the answer that clearly comes in our minds may be yes to some extent but clearly no if we look at a broader picture. In the name of tradition, we are promoting dowry practice which is responsible for the lives of women being unsafe in their own homes after the marriage. From the ages, we have seen the demand for dowry but to stop dowry the demand for it should be understood properly by society so that it can prevent its practice3. If we try to compare the earlier times and the present modernized society, we would be able to outline the pseudo-modernized changes between both the times, like in earlier times the dowry practice was promoted as a traditional practice and people openly demanded dowry according to their wish from the other party and the other party have to fulfil their demand in order for the marriage to occur as planned. If dowry is not provided or the party still even after receiving their desired dowry aren’t satisfied, they used to harass the bride after marriage demanding more and more dowry.
Dowry could be demanded in the form of money, property, household goods etc. This continuous demand for dowry leading to excessive harassment to the bride by her husband or in-laws leads to dowry death in which either due to the woman being bodily harassed she dies or she commits suicide. It could be observed that the society claims that with society being modernized these practices such as dowry exchange or dowry deaths have been reduced, but is this claim by the society genuine in India? This unlawful dowry demanding practice never was abolished completely from the society even after the society claimed to be modernized, instead it led a step towards pseudo-modernization promoting this practice in our society still. We could still observe this dowry system to practice just like earlier times but the only difference is that in pseudo-modernized society dowry is exchanged in
terms of the gifts that the bride’s family gives to the groom's family in terms of money, property, household good’s etc. If they are still not completely satisfied with the dowry received in terms of gifts or dowry promised they start harassing and body shaming the bride just like they used to in the earlier times leading to encouragement of dowry death. In 2016, reported dowry death cases in India amounted to quite 7.1 thousand. This was a gradual decrease from the 2014, during which this number was approximately 8.5 thousand. The dowry system in India incorporates payments within the sort of capital, durables, land among others, made to the bridegroom from the family of the bride as a condition for marriage.
Gender Equality is the major essential requirement for Sustainable development to occur in the society but gender discrimination and gender disempowerment is the major cause promotion of this dowry system from ages in our country India. If we talk about the level of discrimination faced by women in the earlier times in our country, we could then understand the level of criticism women have been facing from ages due to gender inequality. In the earlier era women were treated as goddesses and there was no form of discrimination existing in our society, but later with the passing of time restrictions were imposed on women and male members were considered as supreme by the society where as female members condition declined in the society. These practices lead to the formation of this social evil dowry in our country which later with time became a necessary practice in our country India. Initially, dowry was a social tradition, but with time, it became a social evil, and a voluntary gift turned into a forceful demand.
Most of the deaths in the cases of Dowry used to occur between the age of 15-34 years of age group, most of the deaths could be directly corelated to dowry demand. It was noticed that dowry problems were due to poor prohibition of law or lower status of women in the society which leads to dowry death rising cases in our country. Lack of proper education to the people regarding the laws of dowry prohibition and the punishments if this heinous crime is practiced in our country should be explained on a wide scale to all the deprived areas. In earlier times people encouraged gender stereotype society and gender discrimination was faced by the women from the birth, sons were given prime importance whereas girls were even poorly fed, girls were even deprived of education which also was a major reason for the downfall of female in the society in the earlier times in our country. Dowry was thought of as a price of marrying bride to the bridegroom, which later was demanded again or may be promised by the bride's family could lead to harassment of the bride and can cause dowry death. Female daughter’s being killed by their parents in the mother's womb was also seen to avoid giving dowry at the time of her marriage.
Dowry can be deeply seen as a part of society as if it is attached to the roots of the society and as a result treats woman as a commodity because of the lack of gender equality in this pseudo-modernized country of ours. Laws and regulations made to prevent dowry and dowry death in our country India hugely remained ineffective on a large scale and instead these laws were misused and victimized husbands, and for wrongful gains laws were introduced to reduce such unlawful practices and encourage equality and mutual peace between the citizens by awaking them about this offence it’s causes and its punishments. A more effective approach would be development of a gender-neutral body of property and inheritance law, until that occurs the question of whether dowry prohibition is actually in the interests of women is unsolved. The most effective way would be instead of scandalizing these dowry practices, laws should be impartial and strict towards such cases if the essential requirements as mentioned in section 304(b) has been fulfilled thus the offence is dowry death.
Name - Deept Kumar
Course - B.A.LL.B (Hons.) Integrated 3rd Year
University - Sharda University, Greater Noida