An Overview on Dowry System: A Social Evil
Dowry is the payment in cash or kind by the bride’s family to the bridegroom’s family along with the giving away of the bride in Indian AND Bangladeshi marriage.
Kanyadanan is an important part of Hindu marital rites. Kanya means daughter, and Dana means gift.
Dowry originated in upper caste families as the wedding gift to the bride from her family. The dowry was later given to help with marriage expenses and became a form of insurance in the case that her in-laws mistreated her. Although the dowry was legally prohibited in 1961 it continues to be highly institutionalized. The groom often demands a dowry consisting of a large sum of money, farm animals, furniture, and electronics.
Originally, the purpose of a dowry was to help a husband to feed and protect his family, and to give the wife and children some support if he were to die. Even in the oldest available records, such as the Code of Hammurabi, the dowry is described as an already-existing custom. Regulations surrounding the custom include: the wife being entitled to her dowry at her husband’s death as part of her dower, her dowry being inheritable only by her own children, not by her husband’s children by other women, and a woman not being entitled to a (subsequent) inheritance if her father had provided her dowry in marriage. If a woman died without sons, her husband had to refund the dowry but could deduct the value of the bride price; the dowry would normally have been the larger of the sums.One of the basic functions of a dowry has been to serve as a form of protection for the wife against the possibility of ill treatment by her husband and his family. In other words, the dowry provides an incentive to the husband not to harm his wife.
1.2 Definition of Dowry:
Dowry means any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly, but one party to a marriage to the either party to the marriage; or by the parents of either party to a marriage or by any other persons, at the time of Marriage or at time before or after the marriage as consideration for the marriage of the said parties but does not include dower or Mohr in case of persons to whom the Muslim Personal Law (Shari at) applies.
According to Section 2 Dowry Provision Act,1980- unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or context, “dowry” means any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly-
(a) by one party to a marriage to the other party to the marriage; or
(b) by the parents of either party to a marriage or by any other person to either party to the marriage or to any other person;
(at the time of marriage or at any time) before or after the marriage as consideration for the marriage of the said parties, but does not include dower or mahr in the case of persons to whom the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) applies.
The words “tit the time of marriage or at any time” were substituted for the words “at or” by section 2 of The Dowry Prohibition (Amendment) Ordinance, 1984 (Ordinance No. LXIVofl984)
Dowry as Money, goods or other property given or promised directly or indirectly by the brides side to the groom or his father, mother or any other person from the bridegrooms side at the time of marriage as consideration or condition of the marriage and any such money, goods or property demanded from the bride or the bride’s side by the groom, his father or mother or any person from the groom’s side Section 2(j).Dowry refers to a gift or payment by a bride’s family to the groom or his family at the time of marriage. As an archaic usage, dowry can also refer to dower, the goods a woman brings to a marriage and retains some power over. Less commonly, dowry refers to a gift or payment or property given by a man to or for his bride.
In South Asia today, “dowry deaths” are sometimes a problem: a dowry, paid on marriage, is returnable if the marriage ends. If the husband is unable to repay the dowry, the death of the bride is the only way to end the obligation.
Dowry is the payment in cash or any kinds of gift by the bride’s family to the bridegroom’s family along with the giving away of the bride (called Kanyadaan) in Indian marriage. Kanyadanam is an important part of Hindu marital rites. Kanya means daughter, and, Dana means gift.
“Wa aatoo an-nisaa’a saduqaatihinna nihlatan… And give the women their dower with a good heart…This verse is addressed to the husband because it is their responsibility to pay the dower. This verse shows that the dower must be given to the wife and should not be given to the guardians. There are other verse which shows the obligation to pay dower to the wife. Regarding dower there are 3 different views. One is that in its incidents it is similar to Donations propter Nupteas of the Romans. Second that it is given by the husband to the wife as a mark of respect; and third that it is a device to control the unfettered power of the husband to divorce his wife. where there is a marriage there is a dower. It is a bridal gift. It is a token of respect to the bride.’
There is considerable debate what constitutes dowry in its various forms. The confusion is more acute as in the societal context dowry is differently defined than in anti-dowry law. In a patriarchal dominated social context dowry refers to property given to the bridegroom and his family but the anti-dowry law regards it as the exclusive property of the bride. The, modern phenomenon of dowry, property given or agreed to be given to the bridegroom or his relatives, does not tally with the earlier concepts of bride-price and with the customary concepts of giving property to the bride herself. Dowry and bride price have received substantial attention in the anthropological literature. In fact, there is now a large volume of ethnographic and theoretical literature on dowry and bride-price. Much of this literature concerns the problems of the wide-spread switch from bride-price to dowry as marriage pre- stations. Dowry (Dahej/Hunda) as we all know is paid in cash or kind by the bride’s family to the groom’ s family along with the giving away of the bride (Kanya-dana). The ritual of Kanya-dana is an essential aspect in Hindu marital rites: Kanya = daughter, dana = gift. A reason for the origin of dowry could perhaps be that the groom and his family had to take up the ‘onerous’ responsibility of supporting the bride for the rest of her life. Bride-price on the other hand involves the receipt of presents, in cash or kind, by the bride’s family in return for giving away of the bride. Hence bride-price has the character of an exchange.l9
A dowry (also known as trousseau or to cheer) is the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings to her husband in marriage.’1‘ Compare bride price, which is paid to the bride’s parents, and dower, which is property settled on the bride herself by the groom at the time of marriage. The same culture may simultaneously practice both dowry and bride price. The dowry is an ancient custom, and its existence may well predate records of it.20 So it says that the money, goods, estates, ornaments, property or any other payment which is given by parents or any other members of the family of bride to the bridegroom at the time being of marriage or before or after the marriage by forcibly.
2. History of Dowry System
The Dowry Custom in Bangladesh has a long history in Europe, South Asia, Africa and other parts of the world. One of the major functions of the society and the state should be to protect women against ill treatment by their husbands and husbands’ kin. The giving of a dowry more or less disappeared in Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries. In India and Bangladesh, although illegal, the dowry practice is still common. It is especially common in arranged marriages and rural areas and widely recognized as a Traditional ritual of marriage.
Bangladesh suffers from some evil culture and superstitions. Dowry system is one of the worst evil cultures in this society. A dowry is a gift of money or valuables given by the bride’s family to the groom and the newly formed household at the time of their marriage. It has been an ancient and widespread practice. This bad culture is found and practiced more or less in communities of the country.
In some eases, parents borrow money on exorbitant rate of interest to marry their daughters and sisters and spend rest of their life in great misery. Every year many young women commit suicide or face physical torture after marriage because their parents cannot afford to give dowry. Day by day, marriage has become a kind of business and exploitation of the parents of a girl. A recent survey conducted by Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallyan Foundation in 2008 in three districts in northern side of Bangladesh found that every two out of four family are involved in this bad tradition.lt is obviously true that some parents meet up their demand behind cause of brightness future of their daughter. But this system would break family ties in future. They would not think the long term bad effects of it. The dowry system creates several kinds of gender discrimination. Maximum sectors of our society the dowry system are prevailed.
The opinion of social researcher Mohammad Khairul Alam is that dowry system is a matter of great shame and bad culture in our society. It paves the way of gender discrimination. Apart from that, the bad culture hinders a good relationship between the provider and receiver of dowry. As a result, it creates problems between family and within the society. Each year, this bad culture costs a large number of women’s life while it causes many other women to live a degraded life.”Social researcher Altaf Hossain Mahabub said, “If we don’t stop this practice, our society will destroy one day.” Md Ismail Hossain, Assistant Director of Bangladesh Bank said, “If we want to overcome this situation, we have to emphasize ant- dowry campaign in our society.” Md. Ahsan Habib, Professor of Asian University said, “Only by changing our social perception, it is quietly possible to remove dowry system from our society.” Social researcher Md. Mostak Ahmed, “If we can reduce the availability of using the women in commercial purpose, their social value will increase and then it will be possible to reduce the dowry from our society.” There are thousands of cases that few offenders are actually punished. It shows that only law is not enough to protect the women against injustice. It needs social awareness and effective measures. The registration of marriage should be made compulsory. The women and their parents should refuse the men who want dowry. Men and women should promise against the dowry system. We should create a movement and strong public opinion against the dowry system. The movement should spread to villages and every nook and corner of the country. Besides, government and NGOs should be involved in the movement against the course. People who practise dowry system should be socially boycotted.
Some manners and customs have maintained existence with their harmful power in Bangladesh, a congested country. Among of them, one is the dowry custom and it has been extension since long time in our rustic society. Mainly, this custom came from the manliness society. In rustic society, at the time of a girl’s marriage, her helpless parents have to give wealth to the bridegroom as gifts and the wealth is called dowry. Dowry has become a disease in the villages of Bangladesh. In villages, the poor parents have to buy the happiness of their daughter by exchanging money from the group of bridegroom. The group of bridegroom considers the dowry as their due and the bride as the thing of business.
If the parents of bride can give the dowry, then the daughter can be married. Otherwise, the daughter has to lead a virgin’s life at a corner of home. Sometimes it is seen that the girl is married but she has borne oppression in her in law’s house because her parents could not fulfill the demand of the bridegroom. On the other hand, if the parents of the bride are rich, the quantity of dowry is being increased. In our country, many hard rules are being written for uprooting the dowry custom. Therefore, to remove this manifest problem from our country, women have to be sincere and strong. They should also do obstruction to this custom. Then Bangladesh will become a dowry less country.
2.1 Dowry in Europe
A dowry-the money or property a bride brings to her husband at marriage-was common throughout much of the ancient world, and also flourished in medieval Europe. Dowry was widely .practiced in Europe. In Homeric times, the usual Greek practice was to give a bride price. Dowries were exchanged in the later classical time (5th century BC). Ancient Romans also practiced dowry, though Tacitus notes that the Germanic tribes practiced the reverse custom of the dower. In many places around the world, weddings were formal occasions, accompanied by much gift giving and ritual. The practice of dowries apparently originated when a bride’s parents gave her gifts. As time went on, the dowry developed various functions. A dowry of household goods often helped the newly weds set up their own home. A dowry of property or jewelry would help the wife support herself if her husband died. Generally, the husband returned the dowry to his in-laws if he and his wife divorced or if his wife died child less. Sometimes, the groom’s family paid for the bride, often to compensate her family for the money spent raising her. If the bride had been a valuable worker, her family was sometimes compensated for the loss of her economic support. Failure to provide a customary, or agreed-upon, dowry could cause a marriage to be called off. William Shakespeare made use of such an event in King Lear, one of Cordelier’s wooers ceased to woo her on hearing that King Lear will give her no dowry. In Measure for Measure, Claudio and Juliet’s premarital sex was brought about by their families’ wrangling over dowry after the betrothal. Angelo’s motive for forswearing his betrothal with Mariana was the loss of her dowry at sea. Folklorists often interpret the fairy tale Cinderella as the competition between the stepmother and the stepdaughter for resources, which may include the need to provide a dowry. Gioacchino Rossini’s opera La Cenerentola makes this economic basis explicit: Don Magnifico wishes to make his own daughters’ dowry larger, to attract a grander match, which is impossible if he must provide a third dowry.
Providing dowries for poor women was regarded as a form of charity by wealthier parishioners. The custom of Christmas stockings springs from a legend of St. Nicholas, in which he threw gold in the stockings of three poor sisters, thus providing for their dowries. In some parts of Europe, land dowries were common.
In Grafschaft Bentheim, for instance, parents who had no sons might give a land dowry to their new son-in-law. It was commonly given with the condition that he takes the surname of his bride, in order to continue the family name. In Victorian England, dowries were seen among the upper class as an early payment of the daughter’s inheritance. Only daughters who had not received their dowries were entitled to part of the estate when their parents died. If a couple died without children, the woman’s dowry was returned to her family.
2.2 Dowry in Asia
Dowry is a common practice in many Asian countries, including Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. In India, where incidents of bride burning and dowry death acquired notoriety, the payment of a dowry has been prohibited under in 1961 Dowry Prohibition Act in Indian civil law and subsequently by Sections 304B and 498a of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). In Bangladesh the payment of dowry has been prohibited under in 1980 Dowry Prohibition Act and Nari O Sishu Nirjatan Damon Ain, 2000.
2.3 Dowry in Rome:
A groom of the Roman people pays the bride’s family for the loss of their daughter. The bride price also ensures that the bride will be well treated by her new family. Negotiations between the families of the bride and groom can become quite extensive, with the bride’s father calculating how much his daughter has cost him since her birth, and how much she could be expected to earn during her lifetime.
When agreement is reached, a ceremony, called a pliashka, is held. The groom’s father brings a bottle of wine or brandy wrapped in a colorful silk handkerchief and attached to a necklace of coins. He puts the necklace around the bride’s neck and embraces her. This indicates that she is now engaged and unavailable to any other man. The wine is drunk, but the bottle is refilled for use at the wedding ceremony.
2.4. Dowry in Islam
A woman holds a very high status in Islamic faith. She is honored and respected at all times, but many startling transgressions have crept into Islamic practice. These transgressions have been caused by cultural influence that has no basis in Islamic scripture. Muslims living in the Indian subcontinent have slowly incorporated the act of dowry into their lives. Dowry originated in the upper caste Hindu communities’ as. a wedding gift (cash or valuables) from the bride’s family to the groom’s family. There is nothing strange or unique about a culture influencing Muslim practice, as it is a common characteristic around the globe that when a new religion spreads in an area, people who live in that area retain some of the customs and traditions which they have been practicing for centuries. There is nothing wrong with this as long as those practices do not contradict Islamic law. The practice of dowry, however, does in fact transgress Islamic law. We usually use the word gift for something, which we give voluntarily, to a person we like. A gift is something that strengthens the friendship bond between two people. Dowry, which is usually defined as a “gift” given along with the bride, by a bride’s family to the bridegroom, is used as tool of coercion and greed in societies like India. The bride’s family must give this “gift” or the marriage will not take place. Always the price of the dowry is set higher than the bride’s family can afford and sadly, this results in the bride becoming a burden on her family. The bride’s family then struggles to pay the “gift”.5 In Islam it is the man who pays Mahr (dower) to the woman. The following verses in the Qur’an prove that it is the man who is obligated to pay the Maher (dower) to the woman unless the woman chooses not to take it. “And give women (on marriage) their dower (Mahr) as a free gift; but if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, take it and enjoy it with right good cheer.”
Cultures that demands dowry from the bride’s family, are actually practicing the opposite of what Allah commanded. They have reversed Allah’s words in their practice. The bride is forced to pay a negotiated amount to the groom unless the man chooses not to take it.
When the woman brings less than the negotiated amount, she has to endure constant torture from her in-laws after marriage. When the husband or in-laws are not satisfied with the dowry brought by the bride, they even go to the extent of killing the woman after marriage. The most severe among all the dowry abuse is “bride burning”. The parties engaged in the murder usually report the case as an accident or suicide. While dowry abuse is most common among Hindus, it is rising among Muslims too. Dowry abuse is rising in the Indian Sub continent despite a Dowry Prohibition Act being passed in 1961. The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs and the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reports 6,285 dowry deaths in 2003. The official records are always under reported.
It is obvious that this crime is under reported, for e.g.: In Delhi 90% of cases of woman being burnt are recorded as accidents, five percent as suicides and only the remaining five percent were shown as murder. The statistics of dowry deaths in whole of India is spine chilling many women remain unmarried due to this dowry. Even worse is that, when Muslim men who intend on honoring the Mrt/jr(dower) to the bride, the bride rejects them.
The women prefer to remain unmarried rather marrying some one who is not from their culture. Another practice is that people tend to exchange their sons. In other words, they give a bridegroom (mostly their son) to a girl to be married in exchange for a bridegroom from girl’s family (the bride-to-be’s brother or any unmarried male relative) so that they can have their daughters married without dowry. This places an incredible disadvantage on the parents who have daughters and no sons.
The parents of daughters end up giving money to get their daughters married! It is a sad irony that women (mostly mothers-in-law) end up being the ones who direct oppressive attitudes toward other women (daughters- in-law). Mostly, mothers-in-law-to- be are the ones who demand dowry from the bride’s family and who end up torturing the daughter-in-law after marriage if she brings less than the negotiated amount. When I asked his mother why she is demanding a dowry from the bride, she said, “We have spent so much on our son, for his education, for raising him and now we will marry him off and most of the money he earns will go to his wife. So she will be benefited from all the money we spent on him. For that they can pay some amount to have our son.” So in an effort to respect parents and to conform to cultural norms, Muslim youth in India are bending over backwards to follow traditions that aren’t even rooted in Islam. Demanding dowry and getting married may seem valid in the eyes of many, but will the marriage be validated in the eyes of Allah? Dowry is purely a matter of culture. One should not feel obliged to continue these un Islamic traditions. If a culture contains un Islamic aspects, then one should not feel any shame to break the culture’s traditional practices. The practice of dowry has caused Muslims in many parts of the world to continue their prejudices against women despite the Islamic prohibitions against it. In the Indian subcontinent, a woman is considered to be a great burden mainly because of the dowry system. Here, it is common to see people rejoicing over the birth of a son and lamenting over the birth of daughter. In India, the reason why people prefer male children over female children is mainly due to cultural practices such as dowry. Why aren’t people listening to the message of Islam instead of following the customs of others around them? Allah has given us warning of this in the Qur’an. Allah tells us that infanticide is a grave sin and that favor of one gender over the other has no grounds in Islam.
Islam has legislated the giving of the dower by the husband to the wife in order to please the woman’s heart and to honour her. It is also meant to bring an end to what was done in the Days of Ignorance wherein she was wronged, exploited, despised and robbed of her wealth. The dower is a right exclusively for the wife. It is her possession and none of her guardians or relatives may share any part of it. No one has any power over her concerning how she wishes to dispose of it, as long as she does so in a legally acceptable manner. She may give it away as a gift, she may lend it to others or she may give it in charity or do any other permissible acts she wishes with it. The dower was instituted because the goal of marriage is not the actual act of the marriage contract in itself. In fact, the actual purpose of marriage cannot be achieved unless the spouses stay in a state of marriage. However, that may not be achieved unless the dower is an obligation at the time of the marriage contract itself. What we see happening in some European countries, and indeed some Muslim countries, is very strange indeed. This is where the woman is required to furnish a dowry or provide the furniture for their future house. This is definitely turning the natural order of things upside down and goes against the nature of mankind. It leads to a great deal of social ills and behavioral harm. It is a means by which the woman is despised and belittled. Indeed, she is ruined because of it. If the woman is not able to gather enough wealth together for marriage, she will not be able to get married and, instead, will have boyfriends and affairs, and other evil results.
2.5 Mahr (The Dower):
Islam has successfully maintained an even balance in society between men and women by giving its unequivocal endorsement to a practical division of labor, whereby women are placed in charge of the internal arrangement of the household, while men are responsible for its financing. The home is thus organized on the pattern of a microcosmic estate, with the man in a position of authority. The Quran is specified on this issue; (what means): “Men are in charge of women by [right of what qualities Allah has given one over the other and what they spend in support from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in the husband’s absence what Allah would have them guard…”7 At the time of the marriage, the groom hands over to the bride a sum of money called Mahr (dower) which is a token of his willing acceptance of the responsibility of bearing all necessary expenses of his wife. This is the original meaning of Mahr, although this custom has come to have different connotations in modern times.’Give to the woman in dower, a marital gift’ For a marriage to solemnize in Islam, ‘Meher’ is compulsory. But unfortunately in our Muslim society here, we just keep a nominal ‘Meher’ to satisfy the Qur’an, say 151 Rupees, or some people give 786 Rupees and they spend lakhs and lakhs of Rupees on the reception, on the decoration, on the flowers, on the lunch parties, on the dinner parties.
2.6 Dowry is prohibited in Islam
Though prohibited by law in 1961, the extraction of DOWRY from the bride’s family prior to marriage still occurs. When the dowry amount is not considered sufficient or is not forthcoming, the bride is often harassed, abused and made miserable. This abuse can escalate to the point where the husband or his family burns the bride, often by pouring kerosene on her and lighting it, usually killing her. The official records of these incidents are low because they are often reported as accidents or suicides by the family.
In Delhi, a woman is burned to death almost every twelve hours. The number of dowry murders is increasing. In 1988, 2,209 women were killed in dowry relay that these are official records, which are immensely under reported of official registration of this crime is apparent in Delhi, where ninety. The lack percent of cases of women burnt were recorded as accidents, five percent as suicide and only the remaining five percent were shown as murder. According to Government figures there were a total of 5,377 dowry deaths in 1993, an increase of 12% from 1992. Despite the existence of rigorous laws to prevent dowry-deaths under a 1986 amendment to the Indian Penal Code (IPC), convictions are rare, and judges (usually men) are often uninterested and susceptible to bribery.
2.7 Dowry in India and on Hindus:
Dowry is the payment in cash or any kinds by the bride’s family to the bridegroom’s family along with the giving away of the bride (called Kanyadanan) in Indian marriage. Kanyadanan is an important part of Hindu marital rites. Kanya means daughter, and dana means gift. Dowry originated in upper caste families as the wedding gift to the bride from her family. The dowry was later given to help with marriage expenses and became a form of insurance in the case that her in-laws mistreated her. Although the dowry was legally prohibited in 1961, it continues to be highly institutionalized.
The groom often demands a dowry consisting of a large sum of money, farm animals, furniture, and electronics. The practice of dowry abuse is rising in India. The most severe in “bride burning”, the burning of women whose dowries were not considered sufficient by their husband or in-laws. Most of these incidents are reported as accidental burns in the kitchen or are disguised as suicide. It is evident that there exist deep rooted prejudices against women in India. Cultural practices such as the payment of dowry tend to subordinate women in Indian society. According to Government figures there were a total of 5,377 dowry deaths in 1993, an increase of 12% from 1992. Despite the existence of rigorous laws to prevent dowry-deaths under a 1986 amendment to the Indian Penal Code (IPC), convictions are rare, and judges (usually men) are often uninterested and susceptible to bribery. Recent newspaper reports have focused on the alarming rate of deaths of married women in Hamirpur, Mandi and Bilaspur districts in the state of Himachal Pradesh. According to Hindu tradition, a young man repaid his debt to his ancestors by marrying. Therefore, everything surrounding a wedding, including the dowry, was imbued with ritual meaning. Brides lived with their husband’s family and poor families often saw the bride as another pair of hands. Therefore, the groom’s family compensated the bride’s family for their economic loss. On the other hand, in Brahman, or upper caste, households, the bride was seen as a burden, requiring the support of her husband’s family. The bride’s family had to pay the groom’s family with a dowry for taking her off their hands. Traditional wedding rituals are often followed today in India, especially in rural areas. Hindu people in Bangladesh, it is surprising that there is also no Hindu marriage law or Hindu marriage register in the country. So, if any Hindu woman suffers in the hands of her in-laws, she does not get legal help.
As per a 1946 law, Hindu women can file cases with courts to only regain the rights to conjugal life. Besides, the Hindu women can file cases under Family Court Ordinance 1985, Dowry Act 1980 and Women and Children Repression Act 2003. But these laws are too inadequate to protect the Hindu women’s rights. A total of 926 marriage cases were received by Ain O Shalish Kendra during July 2003 to February 2004 period. Of them, only 17 cases were related to Hindu women. “Hindu women do not complain much fearing the marriage will break. That fear grips them because divorced Hindu women find it hard to get new husbands. There is no law allowing Hindu widows to remarry.But the situation is very different in neighboring India. There are laws in that country to protect the rights of Hindu women such as Widow Marriage Act 1856, Racial Inability Remission Act 1850, Child Marriage Prevention Act 1929 (Amendment 1938), Earned Property Affairs Act 1930, Inheritance Act 1925 and Hindu Women’s Rights to Lands Act 1937.
Although the clauses No 19 (1) and 19 (2) of the constitution carry clear provisions that the state will ensure equal rights to all citizens and remove social and economic disparities, no government came up with steps to reform Hindu laws for protecting Hindu women’s right. The views that, “Hindu laws need to be reformed in our country because there is no provision to registration for marriage and in Hindu Law dowry is permitted which is very harmful for Hindu women and for their families.” But the free democratic environment that is needed for the reforms has no Hindu religionist and the views that, “Marriage registration is as necessary as the babies’ birth registration. It will be helpful if Parliament makes laws in this regard.” Organizing Secretary of Bangladesh Mohila Parisad Rakhi Das Purkaistha says, “Marriage registration is a legal right of women. Marriage registration needs to be obligatory to all people irrespective of religion, cast and creed because marriage registration does not disregard religion.”A Hindu woman social worker, preferring anonymity, regrets, “People in our country only think of the society. They forget that marriage registration is a right of women”.
3. Dowry in Bangladesh
Marriage negotiations for Bangladeshi Muslims involve various financial transactions including primarily the religiously sanctioned dower (mahr). Added to mahr, the practice of dowry or joutuk, demands made by the husband’s side to the bride’s side, have in the last few decades become a widespread practice supported neither by state law nor personal laws, but apparently designed to strengthen traditional patriarchal assumptions. Based on detailed fieldwork, this article discusses the historical assimilation of dowry practices in Bangladesh, including debates regarding its social ramifications on women’s rights in Bangladesh, linked social movement to eliminate growing evidence of dowry in Bangladesh: Compromising Women’s Rights. Marriage negotiations for Bangladeshi Muslims involve various financial transactions including primarily the religiously sanctioned dower (mahr).
Added to mahr, the practice of dowry or joutuk, demands made by the husband’s side to the bride’s side, have in the last few decades become a widespread practice supported neither by state law nor personal laws, but apparently designed to strengthen traditional patriarchal assumptions. Based on detailed fieldwork, this article discusses the historical assimilation of dowry practices in Bangladesh, including debates regarding its social his practice gmans ramifications on women’s rights in Bangladesh, linked now to growing evidence of dowry-related violence. The existing dowry practices, despite legal intervention, continue to compromise women’s rights in Bangladesh.
3.1. Present situation of Dowry in Bangladesh
Dowry is also related to early marriage and polygamy. In village life, a male person follows the polygamy system for Dowry. Dowry is the obstruction system for developing the women and their powers. Most of the person married uneducated and ungraceful women for Dowry by the pressure of his family and for that their conjugal life has been dissolved or unpleasant or unhappy. According to Janet E. Jackson, the former deputy representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to Bangladesh, Bangladesh ranks fourth among the world’s nations with respect to violence against women.21 Jackson observed that “sixty-five per cent of Bangladeshi males think it is justifiable to beat up their wives, 38 per cent have no clear idea what constitutes physical violence and 40 per cent support keeping women socially dormant.” At a workshop on violence against women organized by the Bangladeshi South-South Center, it was learned that Bangladesh stands second in the world in terms of violence against women in different forms like women battering, wife beating, domestic and dowry-related violence, acid attack, rape, physical and verbal harassment, fatwa, sexual harassment in [the] workplace, trafficking and prostitution, polygamy and child abuse.”
Moreover, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) observes that despite the 1997 statement by the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Committee expressing ‘”serious concern'” over the ability of the Bangladesh government to implement effective laws protecting women from violence in Bangladesh, the current “situation remains grim, as the violence against women continues unabated and remains a serious human rights concern”For instance, a report by a prominent Bangladesh women’s organization, Mahila Parishad (Samhati n.d.), that was cited in the Dhaka-based Daily Star indicates that between January and October 2003, at least 3,625 women in Bangladesh were victims of violence.
Of that figure, “1,192 were raped, 306 (were] gang-raped and about 144 [were) murdered after rape” According to the report, “this is the highest incidence of violence against women in recent times”. The dowry system is not recognized in the religion or the law of the Muslim societies but has spread into it. Conversely, Islamic law provides dower to enhance the status of women. Why should Muslim women, who are supposed to be protected by dower, become victims of dowry? While recent scholars have admitted the fact that dowry has spread to the Muslim communities, they have largely ignored the position of Muslim women within this discourse.
Dowry deaths are a common phenomenon in South Asia. These deaths of women are usually caused by the same persons who are legally and socially enjoined to protect them, i.e. their husband or in-laws.
3.1.1 Rape/Sexual Assault
Rape is probably one of the most common forms of violence against women in Bangladesh to date. Sometimes we see that a wife has been Raped or Sexual harassment by her husband. There is no time of husband for made a sexual intercourse but she has not been always prepared. This is a violation of women’s rights. Sometime he compelled his wife to create sexual intercourse to others by taking money. It is a punishable offence under Bangladesh Penal Code. Usually money and muscle are the reasons why the crime goes unpunished. Rape in Bangladesh is a punishable offence. “Whoever commits rape shall be punished with imprisonment for life or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine, unless the woman raped is own wife is not under twelve years of age in which case he shall be punished with imprisonment for life or with imprisonment of either descriptions for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine… Section 9 deals with punishment for rape, gang rape as well as injury or death caused as a result of rape.
For the offence of rape, the perpetrator will be sentenced to rigorous life imprisonment with additional fine. For death caused by rape or incidental to rape, the accused may be sentenced to death or rigorous imprisonment and will be required to pay fine up to the limit of taka one lakh.
On June 16th, 2003, an amendment bill of the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act, 2000 was placed in Parliament to clarify definitions of certain offences and reducing punishment to stop the abuse of law. The bill was passed by the Parliament on 13th July, 2003. Under the new Act, the definition of a child has been raised from 14 years to 16 years. Moreover, where a woman commits suicide for fear of losing her chastity due to the willful act of a person, then that person will be accused as a provocateur and will be punished for the offence with imprisonment of five to ten years.
The Act uses and defines the terms sexual abuse and sexual harassment for the first time. Section 10 states that if any male, in order to satisfy his carnal desires, touches the sexual or any other organs of any woman or child with any organ of his body or with any other object, his action will amount to sexual abuse or abuses the modesty of any woman or makes any indecent gesture, his act shall be deemed to be sexual harassment and for this such male will be punished by rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend up to ten years but shall not be less than three years and shall additionally also be liable to fine.
Sometimes in Bangladesh acid violence is a dreadful and vindictive form of crime which is committed mostly against women for demanding dowry. Sometimes we see that husbands are throwing acid to his wife in the question of not for taking money from her father’s house. It is a major subject of national concern and is being reported frequently by media throughout the year. Acid violence is a terror which must not be adhered in any civilized society, prescribes death penalty or rigorous imprisonment for life including fine taka not more than one lakh if anybody causes death or makes an attempt to cause death to any child or woman by using any burning substance, e.g., acid, import, production, storage, sale or usage of acid without a license is a punishable offence.
Sufia Khatun writes in the Nari Jibon Bangla Blog Amader Kotha about bride dowries which are still a menace in Bangladeshi society. Although the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1980 made dowry a punishable offence to prevent the oppression and even murder of married women, it is still stealthily practiced throughout Bangladesh.
Poverty does not bring happiness, but rather it destroys an organized life. Dowry has become an inevitable common practice in our society. The poor fathers in our society think that fatherhood of a female child is a curse. He has to spend a lot on girls from birth; carrying out expenditures of livelihood, education and what not. It’s the same for a male child, if not more. But during marriage the males do not have to go through what females endure.
It has become a practice in our society that if the daughter is to be married with an educated bridegroom, he and his house must be properly decorated with dresses, furniture etc.. So many educated girls like Shilpi are married with an uneducated man. She has to stay back at home without applying her education
3.2 Outgrowths of Dowry:
In South Asia, the dowry-related phenomenon is on the rise. In Bangladesh it has become an acute problem resulting in breakage of social harmony and texture. This modern feature of dowry’ means the transmission of large sums of money, jewellery, cash and other goods from the bride’s family to the groom’s family. The emergence of dowry and the switch from bride price have been explained by some authors as the cause of the decline of the earning capabilities and productivity of women. According to this view, the system of dowry is closely linked with women’s, role in productive activities. Where women are regarded as an unproductive burden a dowry is given to the bridegroom’s side to compensate them. However, the present spread of dowry cannot be explained only with variables like non participation of women in economic activity.
3.4 Effects of Dowry
In most cases the payments of dowry make sever economic crisis for the families of the bridges, for the payment of dowry, several families are to sell out their land and other household items. Even after that some parents are not yet sure what would happen to the faith of their daughter. In some instances, even after payment of dowry as was agree upon by both sides, fresh demand of dowry from the groom’s side is not uncommon.
After all, it is social crime and it has cancerous effect on the society. At almost all the cases, dowry degenerates more oppression against women and adds more injustice and inequality to our social life. In sometimes makes our familial life more unsafe and flamboyant. More particularly, the fresh demand for dowry after marriage creates troubles in the conjugal life of the spouse. Even it may cause death to any of the, specially to the brides.
Besides, dowry is against religious codes. Particularly, Islam has prohibited the acceptance of dowry rather there is the system of mahr where the bride is to given a certain amount after marriage.
Dowry is also related to early marriage and polygamy. In village life, a male person follows the polygamy system for Dowry. Dowry is the obstruction system for developing the women and their powers. Most of the person married uneducated and ungraceful women for Dowry by the pressure of his family and for that their conjugal life has been dissolved or unpleasant or unhappy.
The term ‘dowry’ has been defined by the ‘Joutuk Nirodh Ain 1980’ or the Dowry Prohibition Act – 1980, as “property or valuable security given or agreed to be given as consideration for the marriage of the parties” and it is generally offered by the wife’s family to the husband before the marriage. The Dowry Prohibition Act of Bangladesh provides that payment or demand for payment of dowry by any one is punishable with imprisonment for up to five years or a fine or with both. The law was amended in 1983, 1995 and 2000 to provide for a sentence of death or life imprisonment and financial penalty to a husband or any of his relatives who causes or attempts to cause death or grievous injury to a wife on account of dowry. OMCT stresses that in addition to being opposed to the death penalty as an extreme form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and a violation of the right to life, as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments, it fears that the death penalty would rather function as a deterrent for prosecution and punishment of the crime. Despite the legal prohibition, the practice of paying a dowry has not stopped or diminished in Bangladesh, neither in rural nor in urban areas. Repression of women for their inability to bring adequate or repeated installments of dowry from their poor parents and resultant deaths or grievous injuries is rather disquietingly frequent.
The negative aspects of dowry i.e. the bitter negotiations, threats, extortion, and repercussions for unmet dowry demands are not generally manifest in middle and upper class families. It is the poor who really suffer economically and socially as a result of the practice of dowry. The economic consequences are that, the money of dowry is often raised by the sale or mortgaging of land at low prices. It also includes livestock, trees, household goods and family jewelry and as well as loans from NGOs and moneylenders at high rates of interest. Despite these economic consequences, payment of dowry is prevalent as shown by the abovementioned survey, which found that 77% respondents gave dowry during their marriage and only 23% of marriages were held without dowry.”
There are many severe consequences resulting from the payment of dowries. First, failure to meet the dowry demands or the new demands often results in verbal and physical abuse of the wife.
Physical abuse includes beating; burning with cigarettes, withholding foods, sleep deprivation and denial of medical treatment. The abuse may be meted out by the husband or members of his family, especially his mother. Verbal abuse may include starting rumors about the character or behavior of the wife and often the girls feel unable to disclose the situation to her parents. If the physical abuse continues and worsens, this may lead to the wife committing suicide.
Additionally, a common result of unmet dowry is sending the girl or woman back to her parent’s house. When this happens everyone considers that it must be the fault of the girl or woman saying such things as: “She could not adapt to her husband” or “She cannot look after her husband properly”. So, once again both the girl and her parents suffer from rumours and criticism. This also affects the reputation of the younger sisters, being returned to live with her parents there are other problems. Her brothers and their wives may resent her presence, particularly if she has brought children with her. She is seen as a drain on the household resources and may be verbally, and even physically, abused by her own family.
3.5. Family Effect of Dowry
The dowry has a long history in Europe, South Asia, Africa and other parts of the world. One of the major functions of the society and the state should be to protect women against ill treatment by their husbands and husbands’ kin. The giving of a dowry more or less disappeared in Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries.
In India and Bangladesh, although illegal, the dowry practice is still common. It is especially common in arranged marriages and rural areas and widely recognized as a traditional ritual of marriage.
Bangladesh suffers from some evil culture and superstitions. Dowry system is one of the worst evil cultures in this society.
A family may be destroyed by dowry. The aforesaid discussion we see that dowry has been given or taken by creating force. Bangladesh is such type of country where most of the people are poor and in the rural area most of the people have no fixed income and they have no more property for living. In case of rural area we see that most of the women are illiterate and they have no ability to do any development activities for their life style. In that situation, at the time being of marriage, the parents of bridegroom demand a huge amount of money or property or other things and on the other hand the parents of bridge are compelled to give it to them for handover their daughter for the purpose of happiness of her conjugal life. Sometimes we see that the parents of daughter searched a good bridegroom for their daughter who will be polite, intelligent, faithful and his quality will be sufficient to maintain their family after marriage. By this tradition the parents have compelled to give any demanding money or other things and for that they sell their last resource, browed money or take loan and after that they are compelled to pass their unbearable life. In that situation they have no limit to suffer a lot. Sometimes we see that they fallen their life with suicide. There is a fact that-
Thamima Begum (19), wife of the Monir(28), vill: Kalikapure, P.O:Sharfpure P.S: Dumuria, District: Khulna. The marriage had been held 02 July 2007 by dowry payment Tk. 100,000.00 after that he demand some times more amount and he tortured his wife. As a result her father committed suicide for not payment. A dowry is a gift of money or valuables given by the bride’s family to the groom and the newly formed household at the time of their marriage. It has been an ancient and widespread practice. This bad culture is found and practiced more or less in communities of the country. In some cases, parents borrow money on exorbitant rate of interest to marry their daughters and sisters and spend rest of their life in great misery. Every year many young women commit suicide or face physical torture after marriage because their parents cannot afford to give dowry. Day by day, marriage has become a kind of business and exploitation of the parents of a girl. A recent survey conducted in three districts in northern side of Bangladesh found that every two out of four family are involved in this bad tradition. It is obviously true that some parents meet up their demand behind cause of brightness future of their daughter. But this system would break family ties in future. They would not think the long term bad effects of it. The dowry system creates several kinds of gender discrimination. Maximum sectors of our society the dowry system are prevailed. The opinion of social researcher Mohammad Khairul Alam is that dowry system is a matter of great shame and bad culture in our society. It paves the way of gender discrimination.
Apart from that, they had culture hinders a good relationship between the provider and receiver of dowry. As a result, it creates problems between family and within the society. Each year, this bad culture costs a large number of women’s life while it causes many other women to live a degraded life.” Social researcher Altaf Hossain Mahabub said, “If we don’t stop this practice, our society will destroy one day.”Md Ismail Hossain, Assistant Director of Bangladesh Bank said, “If we want to overcome this situation, we have to emphasize ant- dowry campaign in our society.” Md. Ahsan Habib, Professor of Asian University said, “Only by changing our social perception, it is quietly possible to remove dowry system from our society.”Social researcher Md. Mostak Ahmed, “If we can reduce the availability of using the women in commercial purpose, their social value will increase and then it will be possible to reduce the dowry from our society.”There are thousands of cases that few offenders are actually punished. It shows that only law is not enough to protect the women against injustice. It needs social awareness and effective measures. The registration of marriage should be made compulsory. The women and their parents should refuse the men who want dowry. Men and women should promise against the dowry system. We should create a movement and strong public opinion against the dowry system. The movement should spread to villages and every nook and corner of the country.
3.6 Social Effect of Dowry
The rise in Bangladesh of the institution of dowry or daabi or joutuk has become widely prevalent. Joutuk is the money or valuable property demanded from the bride by the groom or his family as a consideration of the marriage. There is a considerable debate what constitutes dowry in its various forms. In a patriarch ally-dominated social context dowry refers to property given to the bridegroom and his family but the anti-dowry law regards it as the exclusive property of the bride. Dowry or bride prices have received substantial attention in the anthropological literature. In fact, there is now a large volume of ethnographic and theoretical literature on dowry and bride price. In Bangladesh most of the occurrence of cruelty of women is related to Dowry. Dowry is the reason for other problems. In Bangladesh women have oppressed in every hour and in everyday 24 women have oppressed of which 10 women are oppressed by Dowry. So conjugal conflict, oppression of women, family’s unpleasant, dissolution of marriage etc. are created for demanding Dowry and other related facts of it.
Ain O Shalish Kendra has been declared that at the year 2000, 1876 women have oppressed by Dowry. Some of them have raped, some oppressed by acid throwing and oppressed by other reasons, which are as follows:-
|Murder for Dowry||107||111||173||166|
|Acidity for Dowry||165||236||383||249|
|Torture for Dowry||281||70||73||166|
|Suicide for Dowry||202||588||716||249|
Source: Ain O Salish Kendro, “Human Rights in Bangladesh” Producer- Hamida Hossain, Dhaka, Page-134
Among 281 women 63% have been died by serious physically torture. It also said that in this country, 19 to 24 ages women are the target group of Dowry. For this reason most of the parents of bride have sold their living property to accomplish the Dowry demand, as a result the dependent people, poor people and bagger system increased day by day in our society.
3.7 Effect in case of Crime
Crime is a baffling problem ever since the dawns of human civilization and man’s efforts to grapple with this problem have only partially succeeded. Criminologists have identified many types of crime-causation. Dowry is one of them. If we investigate the crime’s life history, sometimes we have taken some information that dowry is liable for the creation of his criminality mind. Sometimes we see that the parents of bridegroom arranged the marriage without the consent of him by demanding dowry. They compelled him to sit on marriage ceremony by fiercely. As a result, it discovered that the wife has not choices by him but he is compelled to pass the conjugal life to her and she is fallen as a hunting animal of him . Always he tortured her and causes many crimes such as death, hurt, assault and sexual crime .Sometime follows that she is tortured for any amount of cash from her father. As a result, they pass their conjugal life with indescribable suffering and at last some family have broken. Sometime it’s impact will be fallen to their child. They are always seen that torture and their parents behavior and their mind captured this nature and they think, it should be the nature of behavior because they are like to imitate. At the same time they create crime because their mind have been cropped day by day.
3.7.1 Many crimes have been created for dowry in our society as:-
Simu (23), the wife of Md. Jillur Rahaman of Khosalpur, P. S.:- Mohadebpur, District:- Nowaga, she was murdered by her mother-in-law and her sister-in -law. Five years ago, their marriage was held by TK. 160007= as dowry.
Munni Begum (28), the wife of Md. Mamun (33), Dhaka, he was murdered her at the night of Thursday. Her father, Md. Isshuq Mollah told that four years ago, the marriage was held and also told that he and his family tortured her for dowry.
On Oct. 9, 2000, 18-year-old Rahima Khatun of Jehnaigati in Sherpur was beaten by her husband and forced to leave her husband’s home while her six-month-old daughter Ontora was murdered. Rahima told Odhikar investigators that she had been married for four years to Abdul Wahab, who drives a rickshaw van and is a habitual gambler. He had sold what little property he had to pay his gambling debts. After he began stealing from home to pay off his debts, his father threw him out of the house. He then took his wife to live on the homestead of his sister and brother-in-law. Under such circumstances; Rahima was constantly pressured by her husband to bring the rest of her dowry from her father’s house.
This took the form of beatings and other kinds of physical and mental violence. Soon this violence became a common part of her daily life, and even her sister-in-law and her husband joined in the verbal and sometimes physical abuse. At one point, her father, a poor farmer, managed to scrape together TK. 10,000 for his son-in-law, which then led to even more demands.
3.8 Effect on Human Rights
Bangladesh is a poor and small South Asian Country in the world map. The Governments human rights record remained poor and the Government continued to commit numerous serious abuses. There are many rights as Freedom of Speech and Press, Freedom of peaceful Assembly and Association, Freedom of Religion, Women’s rights, Children’s rights etc. Dowry is one of the main problems of violation of women’s rights. Domestic violence against woman was widespread. Much of the reported violence against woman was related to disputes over dowries. Human rights monitors insisted that actual number of rapes was higher, as many rape victims did not report the incidents in order to avoid social disgrace.
Human rights is a concept that has been constantly evolving throughout human history. Human rights became synonymous with natural rights. The idea of natural rights continued in ancient Rome. On December 10,1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the 56 members of the United Nations. The UDHR, commonly referred to as the international ‘Magna Carta’. Dowry-related violence is particularly problematic in Bangladesh. A survey conducted by Naogaon Human Rights Development Associations (NHRDA) revealed that 84% percent of the cases it received in 2000 were dowry related wife battering cases. In 2001, 173 girls and women were killed due to dowry demand with 79 of these victims below the age of 18.
Bangladesh has a colonial historical background and achieved her independence in 1971 under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The economy is mainly agrarian and the population is approximately 140.4 million.2 Women form over 50 percent of the total population and the growth rate is 1.75 percent per annum. The population of persons below 15 years is around 43 percent of the total population; and women of reproductive age (15-49 years) represent 46 percent of the total female population. The maternal and infant mortality rates are reported to be 4.5 and 78 per thousand live births respectively. Life expectancy has increased to 58.1 years for male and 57.6 for female compared with the 1991 level of 55 and 54.5 years respectively.
In Bangladesh, one the situation will change anytime soon. “The government in Bangladesh has already taken positive steps in increasing the enrollment of girls in schools, which should decrease the practice of giving and demanding dowry,” Davis says.
Women’s rights to equality are guaranteed in the Constitution, which was written in 1972. Article 27 of the Constitution states, “All citizens are equal before the law and are entitled to get equal protection of law” Similarly, article 28(1) states that ””the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.’1” Article 28(2) states, “Women shall have equal rights with men in all spheres of the state and of public life.” Additionally, article28(4) provides that “Nothing shall prevent the State from making special provisions in favor of women or for the advancement of any backward section of the population.” Article 29(1) provides, “There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in respect of employment or office in the service in the republic”.
The Constitution further advances and incorporates the principle of special representation of wo