Dowry still exists in the guise of ‘gifts’
However, the government claims that dowry cases have decreased since the enactment of the Dowry Prohibition Act in 2018, and the term “dowry” is still prevalent. It is prevalent in the form of gifts.
In rural areas, it is common for families to marry off their girls with loads of household furniture, electronic apparel, or even a motorcycle in the name of gifts. Priorly, it used to be dowry, but suddenly it is disguised as gift.
During and after the COVID pandemic, the rate of child marriage increased improbably. It simply returned to the phase where the change was initiated. Besides, the climate shocks, including cyclones, torrential rain, floods, and river erosion in the coastal and northern regions, have made early marriage a regular issue. Danger never comes alone, so dowry became widespread.
Interestingly, under the existing system, the groom’s side makes no dowry demands. They communicate the demand covertly through matchmakers, who play an important role in any dowry-raising effort. The bride’s family is persuaded by the matchmakers to use pricey gifts to flaunt their money and social standing. By convincing the bride’s family that the groom’s family has no demands about property or money, they can manipulate them.
Eventually, the bride’s family is pressured to send costly gifts because a marriage without gifts would be laden with social embarrassment, yet both parties are therefore spared the shame and potential legal punishment. Yet, the families also acknowledge the need for providing these as they consider it a part of wedding culture.
In her book Crime or Custom, sociologist Shahana Nasrin termed hypergamy as one of the main causes of dowry. The bride’s family believes that it would be expensive to marry off their daughter to a socially esteemed groom. And they firmly believe this additional support will ensure their daughter’s happiness with their in-laws. As a result, under pressure from neighbours, matchmakers, and distant relatives, the bride’s family assumes financial responsibility.
The practice of dowry has an important role in the nation’s post-marriage conflicts, poverty, inequality, and divorce rates. Because it impacts a large segment of society, legal remedies alone won’t be sufficient to remedy it; social measures are crucial. As a result of the fact that dowries frequently end in violence against women, civic society and the government both need to treat this problem seriously.