A Child, to a Daughter, to a Liability: The Impact of Dowry on the Indian Culture

While the Indian wedding industry is valued at $40 billion annually, it’s important to consider what goes on behind the scenes.


The giving of Dowry is a tradition followed by many Indian families. Dowry is considered a payment to the groom by the bride’s family. The amount is in the form of property, car, gold, jewelry, or cash.


The culture of dowry has been evident through the history of India. Since the concept was introduced, it has impacted every family’s decision before aborting a girl and every family’s investment portfolio if they give birth to a son.


The significance of endowment has resulted in prejudice against women because they’re considered as a liability. Even though the government has tried to intervene and stop families to partake in this social obligation, it continues.


According to the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the Dowry Prohibition Act, which was enforced in 1961 states that any party shall be punished for accepting, giving, and demanding dowry. Punishment can vary from up to 5 years in prison and a 15,000 Rupees ( AED 832) fine.


Even with all these laws, families are hesitant to report cases of dowry as it’s considered an act of humiliation amongst the community. Moreover, this will also jeopardize the future of a woman and her viable marriage options in that society.


Overall, women consider the “anti-dowry” laws weak because this is still a continuing tradition. Several cases go unreported or unattended, so where does this leave us?


UNICEF states, “An estimated 5,000 women are burnt to death each year in ‘kitchen accidents’ because their dowry was seen as being too modest.”


Another one of India’s most shameful doings is “Dowry Death.” UNICEF defines the honor killing as when “the woman is killed because their bridewealth is deemed insufficient by the groom’s family.”


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Not only are women considered a burden on the family, but dowry is also one of the reasons why there’s an increasing rate of female feticide in India. As a result, India banned families from finding out the sex of their baby to avoid gender-selection abortions.


On the other hand, those who are in support of the dowry tradition believe that when a daughter enters a new family, she’s not entitled to the husband’s share of wealth given by his parents. Therefore, she must bring a dowry to support her future.


Additionally, supporters believe that the bride shouldn’t be dependent on the groom’s family when she needs clothes, food, or cash.


While the dowry culture is popular in South Asia, in other parts of the world dowry is provided to the bride.


“In Islam, the man must provide a dowry to his to-be wife,” said Farah ElBahrawy, an AUD student, “However, we consider it as a gesture of love and loyalty.”


“It’s not a big deal in our culture, our families want to know that the groom will always provide for us, for instance, my dad gave my mum 25 fils as dowry,” she added.


Therefore, even though there is no religious connection between dowry giving and marriage in India, families are still pressurized to provide the groom’s family enough wealth to last them a lifetime.


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Infographics and Images by Dhara Bhatia


Dhara Bhatia

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