Why a grassroots mass movement is necessary to fight dowry

Source: Indian Express  

Relevance: Dowry practice is still prevalent in Indian Society, despite taking different measures.


Country needs a multipronged approach to tackle the inhuman practice of dowry. Mere enactment of a legislative framework or enhancement of literacy levels is not enough to control this problem.

  • Last week, a young woman named Vismaya Nair was found dead in her house. It is alleged that excessive demand for dowry by her husband resulted in the death of the woman.
  • Vismaya is just one more in the endless statistics of horrifying dowry deaths in India. They are so common that if a young woman dies with burns or other injuries within seven years of marriage, it is deemed to be a dowry death. 
Challenges in Tackling Dowry:
  • First, the system of patriarchy is deeply entrenched in our homes. The bride is looked upon as a commodity and handed over as a package. She is bundled up with gold, a car, and other luxury items.
  • Second, the legislative framework i.e the Dowry Prohibition Act hasn’t been able to place an effective barrier on the practice of dowry.
  • Third, giving a sufficient degree of education is also not enough to control this menace.  For instance, Kerala has near-total literacy and yet weddings continue to be lavish, with brides’ parents often taking loans and nearly bankrupting themselves.
  • Fourth, the larger context for the practice of dowry is the poor presence of women in the workforce, and their consequent lack of financial independence.
Multipronged Approach to tackle dowry:
  • Accepting dowry should be made a social stigma. Superstars should be encouraged to endorse this along with their soap and soft drink endorsements. 
    • Women should flatly refuse to give dowry as part of marriage and men should refuse to take it in any form. People should go for simple, inexpensive, dowry-less marriages rather than Bollywood-style extravaganzas.
  • Women should be supported to take up jobs and have independent incomes. This means we should expand childcare and safe public transport, reduce discrimination in hiring, and create affirming workplace environments. At home, men should share domestic work and care responsibilities.
  • States should look at gender-disaggregated data across the life cycle – birth, early childhood, education, nutrition, livelihood, access to healthcare, etc. This will help in addressing gender inequality.
    • Further boys and girls should be systematically sensitized on the core value of gender equality by their teachers and mentors. 
  • As a larger initiative, laws, and regulations should be screened to remove gender bias, replacing words like “manpower” with gender-neutral equivalents.
  • Further, there should be zero tolerance towards domestic violence. Families should store evidence and report at once, instead of sending battered women back fearing “what society will say”.
    • Support systems must be expanded to help victims with shelter, counseling, legal follow up, and livelihood support when required.
Way Ahead:
  • To become a mass movement, this approach must start at the grassroots level.
  • The power of marriage registration should be decentralised to panchayat secretaries as we know that marriage registration protects women’s rights.
  • Further women’s self-help groups should be systematically oriented about violence against women and the existence of local support systems. 
    • By actively spreading awareness and displaying solidarity, women’s self-help groups can play a powerful role in building a more equal society.

Terms To Know: 

Dowry Prohibition Act

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