The Origin of Dowry System – British Policies convert Gifts to Bride into an instrument of oppression against women

The modern definition of the Dowry System in India is as follows.

 Dowry is a payment of cash or valuable gifts from the bride’s family to the bridegroom upon marriage.

This menace of Dowry has become a social menace in modern India leading to the oppression on women, physical violence on the bride, causing a financial and emotional stress on the parents of the bride, marital conflict and so on. This menace exists even today in the society even though it is a criminal offence to take Dowry during marriage.

The Status of Women in Ancient Indian Society

But what is the real history of this menace. Did it always exist in the Indian society? Was Indian society always oppressive of its women? On the one hand we have the ancient scriptures which talk about women with such high respect. The most powerful God in Hinduism is the female Goddess. Saraswati is the Goddess of Knowledge, not Brahma. Lakshmi is the Goddess of Wealth, not Vishnu. Parvathi is the Goddess of Power and Energy, not Shiva.

We only hear about Swayamvar in the ancient Hindu marriage traditions where it was the bride who decided whom to marry. There was no Swayamvadhu, the groom could not hold beauty contests to decide which bride to marry. Instead it was the girl who in a Swayamvar, would put all the competing potential bridegrooms to different contests and then select the bridegroom whom she liked. In the Swayamvar of Sita in Ramayana, Rama had to lift the Shiva’s bow to prove that he was eligible to marry Sita. In the Swayamvar in Mahabharatha, Arjuna had to hit the eye of the fish rotating above by only looking at the fish’s reflection in a pool of oil below.

So if this was the importance given to women in our tradition, then when and where did this contradiction of the menace of dowry enter our society? We don’t find any instances of dowry related violence in the literature of ancient times. Not even in the literature belonging to the pre-colonial era of India. So when did the Indian society adopt the evil version of dowry which has created numerous social problems in the Indian society ranging from female foeticide, violence on married women, financial stress on parents of girl child, imbalance in male-female ratio, broken marriages, mistrust between families, etc.

Dowry Murder: The Imperial Origins of a Cultural Crime, a well researched book by Veena Talwar Oldenburg tries to answer this question. In this book, the author follows the paper trail left by British bureaucrats during the British Colonial rule of India. And then there are personal accounts from women in India including author’s own personal account on the system of Dowry. And what gets revealed after all this path breaking research and analysis, gives a huge blow to the very theory of Dowry being directly responsible for the status of women in the Indian society and goes on to prove how a system meant to actually benefit the married woman got converted during the British Rule into a system which ended up harming the very woman who was supposed to benefit from it.

The Original Institution of Dowry in Pre-Colonial India

Yes, the system of Dowry existed in India even before the British Rule, but not in the format that is prevalent in the society today. In the pre-colonial period, dowry was an institution managed by women, for women, to enable them to establish their status and have recourse in an emergency. In this ancient system of dowry, the parents of the bride, even her kith and kin, all gave wealth to her in the form of valuable gifts etc. It was just like how parents used to give a part of wealth to their sons, so did they give it to their daughters too during the daughter’s marriage. What is very important to be noted here is that, the valuables or the wealth was given to the bride, and NOT to the groom or his family. In other words, the dowry wealth continued to be owned by the wife and not by the husband or his family. This gave the required financial independence to women who would even manage the income from their agricultural land , etc.

So in the original system of dowry prevalent in India, women were gifted wealth from their parents during marriage and this served as a tool of financial independence for the bride even after marriage.

Even during the initial days of the British rule, contemporary European writers Orme, the French Catholic missionary Jean-Antoine Dubois who came to India in 1792, Malcom etc have praised the status of Hindu women in India. Malcom says that the Hindu women “have a say in the affairs of the state, have a distinct provision and estate of their own, enjoy as much as liberty they desire”. Malcom also praises women rulers like Ahalya Bai of being great administrators.

Angry Brides - angrybrides.in - An Anti-Dowry Game

So when did the wrong turn take place?

The Permanent Settlement of Bengal – The British Land Reforms of India

It all started with the Permanent Settlement of Bengal in 1793 by the British under Lord Cornwallis. This enabled private ownership of land which was unknown in India till then. Private ownership of land was never practiced in India in the past. The land always belonged to the government and people only settled in the government’s land. If there was a flood in one place, people used to move on to another place in the kingdom. By introducing the permanent settlement, the British enabled the private ownership of land in India. All modern day real estate related violence in the country could hence be traced back to this act by the British. People there after started fighting over land.

It was this system which also created the system of Zamindars or landlords in India. Very few realize that the Zamindari system of landlords who ill treated peasants was created by the British rule. Till then, the zamindars were not land lords, but only tax collectors, collectors of land revenue who used to collect it from the farmers and hand it over to the local government. The Britishers converted these tax collectors into zamindars giving them the ownership of that land, and using them as a means to loot the farmers in the name of more tax. The zamindar or the landlord now owned the land, and it was hereditary ie the children of the landlords became the inheritors of the land.

The peasants on the other hand, suffered from this Permanent Settlement. They were left entirely at the mercy of their landlords, who also had share a in the production and which was not fixed! In the Pre-British system, kingdoms collected tax only during the times of surplus or sufficient growth, and the tax was used for the betterment of the society. But in the British rule, tax or Lagaan was collected irrespective of whether there was a famine or a flood, and tax rates were extremely high. It was looting in the daylight. Remember the movie Lagaan?

Prohibition of Property Rights for Women under the British Rule

But the move which affected the status of the women in the Indian society was the rule imposed by the British which prohibited the women from owning any property at all! And this was what created the menace of dowry system in India.

In the existing system, parents used to give wealth and valuable gifts to their daughters during marriage. And the bride continued to own this wealth even after her marriage and it provided the wife financial independence and there was usually no need for a wife to depend on her husband for her financial needs.

In fact, the situation even in 1870s was that,

In 49 separate volumes of customary law covering colonial Punjab, which today comprises Pakistan and Indian Punjab, Haryana, Jammu, Delhi and Himachal Pradesh, dowry has been described in the 1870s as a collection of voluntary gifts comprising clothes, jewellery, household goods and cash bestowed on the bride by family and friends at the time of the girl’s wedding. Nowhere was it described as the prerogative of the groom to make demands on the girl’s family. But the British at that time had not granted their own women property rights, so it was highly unlikely they would do so for Indian women. - Dowry murder as a legacy of British policies

But once the British prohibited women from having any property rights, it meant that all the wealth that a woman got from her parents would be owned by her husband instead. And the moment, this system of husband owning the wealth of his wife was created, the traditional dowry system got converted into a menace creating an institution of greed that oppressed, victimized and suppressed women. The greed that kicked in created a system where husband and his family started looking at the incoming bride as a source of property and wealth, the male dominated society became greedy, husband and in-laws started demanding more dowry from the bride and her parents. The social harmony and the bonding created by the institution of marriage was gone. Marriage became just another business deal, where making wealth was more easy. Male child became an additional source of income, and female child became a financial burden on the family. This led to the creation of the social problems like female foeticide and an imbalance in male-female ratio in the society, which further led to more crimes on women.

After the British prohibited women the right to own or inherit property, until 1956 the women in India did not have the right to inherit property from their parents. It was only in 1956 that the Hindu Personal laws were amended giving the right to women to inherit ancestral property.

But again those rights were not equal to those of men. Sons had an independent share in the ancestral property, while the daughters’ shares were based on the share received by their father. Hence, a father could effectively disinherit a daughter by renouncing his share of the ancestral property, but the son will continue to have a share in his own right. Additionally, married daughters, even those facing marital harassment, had no residential rights in the ancestral home.

IT WAS ONLY as recently as in 2005, when the Hindu laws were amended again, now providing women equal status with men in terms of ancestral property.

Please note that, we are only talking about Hindu women here, because that is how the law system we inherited from the British is. The British based on their divide and rule policy created different laws for different religions. Prior to that the laws in India varied based on geography, and not based on religion or caste of the person.

Successive governments in independent India have retained most of the laws we inherited from the British without much amendments. Hence today unfortunately, personal laws are different in India depending on which religion the person belongs to. For Muslim women and Christian women, the rights are even less. In fact, the Rajiv Gandhi government while in power in 1986 passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act just to nullify the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Shah Bano Case which had ordered the husband to provide maintenance money to his divorced wife, Shah Bano.

The marriage of Christians in India is still regulated by the Indian Christian Marriage Act of 1872 and and the Indian Divorce Act 1869. These acts were considered unfair to women, and the Christian Marriage and Matrimonial Causes Bill 1990 was proposed as a replacement, but no progress has been achieved into converting this bill into a law.

Strange that while we call ourselves a civilized society, we are fine with the personal laws being different for men and women depending on which religion one belongs to. And even strange is the fact that the calls for a Uniform Civil Code in the country which seeks uniform laws to all citizens irrespective of their religion is being frowned upon as being communal! How logical is it to say that the law of land applicable to a person depends on which religion he belongs to? Vote bank politics in the name of caste and religion continue endlessly in our society in the disguise of secularism and upliftment of the downtrodden. Even after 60 years of independence, we are still unable to uplift the marginalized sections of the society, they are being merely used as vote banks for the political class, and all that gets heard is the mere rhetoric every time an election approaches.

A Practical Solution to end the menace of Dowry

Yes, there is a law in India which makes taking dowry illegal and a criminal offence. And yet we keep coming across so many dowry harassment cases in the country on a daily basis.

I propose a simple solution to practically end the menace of dowry in the modern Indian society. There should be a law which would state that, upon marriage all the property of the husband would be automatically owned by the wife, ie there would be no property rights for married men, at least for a period of 10 or 20 years. This would make dowry meaningless because whatever wealth the bride brings in will still belong to her, and also does the wealth of her husband. So this would discourage all those men who marry merely for the sake of dowry. The pros and cons of this law can be debated upon, but I am pretty sure that this law, if implemented for a limited time period of say 30 or 50 years would be n times more effective in eradicating the menace of dowry from our society. What say? After all for a good husband, why should it matter if he owns the property or if his wife does? Ain’t it?

The above solution proposed has been discarded as it is prone to misuse, and instead a new solution has been proposed below which sounds more efficient and effective.

The solution is to create an anti-dowry cell similar to the anti-corruption wing in the legal system, where in the bride or her parents can inform the police about the dowry being demanded and make an arrangement to catch the groom or his family red handed while received dowry. Even if it is not possible for the police to arrive at the location where give-take of dowry happens, the same could be monitored by say hidden cameras provided by the legal system to the girl or her family members, which could even be monitored in real time by the police.

There is very little chance of misuse of this provision to harass the groom’s side as the proof gets recorded as and when the crime takes place. This also helps the problem be nipped in the bud, rather than being carried over into the post marriage scenario. There can be no solution without the victim refusing to be victimized. As an additional caution, it would be advisable for the legal system to be run by women officers, well trained in handling the menace of dowry.

Girls should also be educated and well informed about the negative impacts of dowry, and should be taught that they can lead a better life with more independence and happiness by being single rather than marrying a man demanding dowry. They should also make bold moves towards exposing families demanding dowry using the help of the legal system, at the same time the legal system should be made more accommodating to make the girls and their family members comfortable. Government can also announce rewards for girls and their families who expose those demanding dowry.

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  • Rhonda Thissen

    The thinking that men are “pussywhipped” just because women have rights equal to men’s is the root of the problem here. It takes a TRUE man to recognize the value women bring to human society.

  • Indian Woman

    Namastey guru ji,
    I came across your article and could not stop myself from commenting. I don’t know whether these stories are relevant to the discussion or not but they can rise some interesting ideas in the mind of readers.
    I belong to a north Indian Himalayan Brahmin family who have their roots in the authentic Vedic culture and religion. My family like most of the brahmins is well versed in vedas and astrology. Now you will be thinking what’s so special about this? But there are some cultural practices which existed in our(Himalayan) families that may seem quiet peculiar to the north-Indian or even south-indian brahmins.
    1. WIDOWED WOMEN WERE NOT CONSIDERED CURSED
    ( To support my argument I’m sharing the story of my great-great-aunt who was born in late 19th century) The women was widowed at the young age. After that she devoted her time to the reading of vedas and other scriptures and within few year she became proficient. She left her house of in- laws and started working as a priestess. People from far areas( even some of them were from UP) would call this young women to perform yajnas, pujas, samskars and it was not considered a taboo(she was not ascetic or yogini). The elderly men used to touch her feet for the blessings. Doesn’t it sound irony for a women and above all widow(around 100 years ago) performing the men’s task. (At her time she was not the only women doing this.)
    2. PEOPLE DID NOT KNOW WHAT DOWRY WAS
    Yes off-course it’s 24 carat truth. My mom’s marriage was too sans dowry. My grannies told me at their time groom’s family used to ask bride’s family how much people they should bring to the barat and they even used to pay the money for the wedding feast and bride’s ornaments if needed. There were 2 months in the year when the women could rightfully live in her parents house. (chaitra & baisakh). But today’s media-effect is slowly giving rise to dowry system though the dowry-seeking people are still not held in good reputation.
    3. THEY DID NOT KNOW PARDA
    Only day women was ever veiled in her life was her day of marriage.
    4. WIDOW MARRIAGE
    Yes even in the high cast the women widowed (with or without children) at the young age were allowed to remarry preferably in their husband’s family. My some grannies and great-great aunts were and they were still held in the great respect. Although this practice is diminished today.
    5. NO HONOR KILLING
    I know several of my neighborhood aunties and some oldies who had technically eloped with their present husbands(some with their children). But they were never prohibited from social circles. Although marriages in their families were banned but still they did not face any social stigma. Think what could happen to their families if they were living in the other part of country.
    6. WOMEN AS A PRIEST IN TEMPLES
    There are traditional pundits who say the women has no right to perform rituals and still you may found some esteemed temple in their neighborhood having female priestess some even from generations. Now you can make out what I’m saying.
    Our cultural is dominantly patriarchal but they develop different practices because they remained completely untouched by foreign rulers influence. I believe that dowry system, honor killings, widow shunning ( see kunti in mahabharat) etc were the social malice which developed with the fall of vedic education and vedic kingdom in India. Please pay notice to the fact most of the brahmin families which live in the Himalayan region(and ours not exception) are migrated from the planes and other parts of the India from 1100 CE to 1600 CE so you can’t say that those were our indigenous practices. And it was also hard to develop them with the time as you know very-2 well how hard it is to change the way of brahmin thinking. The thing which was considered taboo would remain so for thousands of the year. To know the exact practices of Indian society you have to add every bit from different sources. And I also believe that social practices should not be viewed as part of Hinduism. Hope I will hear from you soon as I’m to keen to share with you more of it.
    Jai Hind

  • Non Indian

    Could it be possible that the idea of the cast system is foreign also?

  • pp_chn

    /* T WAS ONLY as recently as in 2005, when the Hindu laws were amended again, now providing women equal status with men in terms of ancestral property. */

    This is not correct. Because a man & his wife are to care for the man’s parents, the daughter shouldn’t receive any or only a minimal part of the ancestral property. This division of property equally between son & daughter could be one of the reasons why daughter-in-laws don’t want the additional burden of taking care of their in-laws. As the daughter is free to get property without any added responsibilities.

    • rajiv

      This whole write-up stinks. The reason daughters were excluded from ancestral property was because the son(s) got no gold. The parents always bought gold/silver and gave it to their daughter(s). Even today the gold is usually bought by the mother and is given to the daughter(s) with son(s) getting no gold. So what is wrong if only the son(s) get a share in inherited property from parents?? Even today in India it’s mostly the son(s) that take care of their aged parents, not their daughters. If daughters get inherited property even son(s) should get the same amount of gold that is given by parents to their daughter during her marriage. Brothers must have a right to split the gold given to their sister during marriage by their parents.

      Also what is wrong with giving dowry(varadakshina) to husband?? If the wife has 2 kids then the wife will be out of the work for around 4 years. Why can’t a husband ask for a small dowry for that small period?? since he alone has to provide for the expenses of the wife and the newborn children?? Varadakshina needn’t be given at one go during the time of the marriage. The wife’s parents can give money in small amounts to the newly wed couple for the 1st 5 years of marriage either yearly or quarterly instead of giving all at the time of marriage.

      Just because some idiots do dowry deaths(very small number), does it mean all in-laws/husbands are dowry murderers? just because some rapists roam the streets(again very rare) does it mean that all men are rapists? just because some militants happen to be muslim does it mean that all muslims are terrorists??

      Also why are these inheritance/dowry laws only for hindus??

      Now our the author will be happy that a new law is going to be passed by which DAUGHTER-IN-LAW WILL GET 50% OF INHERITED WEALTH AND ASSETS OF THE HUSBAND. Women can now marry hindu men for a few days/months/years and run away with lakhs/crores of rupees.

      We hindus don’t need outsiders to destroy us, our enlightened ‘hindus’ like the author of this article themselves will finish us with crazy thinking and laws.

      Also the number of husbands committing suicide today in India is far greater than number of wives being killed. We need to scrap all these dowry laws, domestic violence laws, etc since their misuse is more than 95% and it is mainly used to harass innocent husbands and make wives and lawyers rich. We need God to save hindus from ‘hindus’.

      Make dowry legal again(again dowry can be given by the men’s family to women’s family or vice-versa depending on the situation). Make pre-nuptial agreements legal in India. Without pre-nup Hindus will soon go extinct in India. Without pre-nup Hindu man will soon become the most harassed specie on this planet. Let the parents decide how the inherited wealth is going to be split up. Families must be free to make their legal/economic decisions. Families don’t need outsiders and lawyers to tell them how to run families and manage the economics of marriage and family.

      • itzguru

        Varadakshina is illegal, not parents giving a part of their wealth to their daughter voluntarily. Its only forcefully demanding a sum that is illegal.

        The problem with Gold logic is, Son doesn’t get sister’s gold, but gets his wife’s gold, which is many times more.

        Most women earn today, don’t they use their salary for their own family and kids after marriage, so what is here about only husband having to work? And working wives also work at home unlike most husbands.

        Please do a random survey among parents who have both son and daughter and who are living with son, most of them will say that their daughter is helping them better than their son. Ask parents who have only daughters how happy they are. Next ask parents who have only sons how happy they are. It is daughters who look after their parents well even if they are staying away.

        Yes there has been misuse of dowry related laws just like in all other laws which are misused. But that doesn’t mean the problem of dowry doesnt exist. Even today as we speak there are parents and girls working hard to earn enough for their marriage. How many times have we come across guys working hard to earn for their marriage?

        Of course the inheritance laws should be for all religions. That is govt fault where there is no common civil code in the country. And who will save the girls if dowry is made legal? The bottom line is guys should not get married if they can’t afford it or should only marry girls who are also earning. Marriage is not a business partnership, its a new family. The moment money and wealth enters into the equation beyond voluntary ability it has its ill effects on the family.

        • rajiv

          “Varadakshina is illegal” Who are you to decide what is legal and illegal?? The great Morarji Desai banned gold imports and banned private gold holdings in India. We all know how well Indians obeyed his shitty laws and continued to buy gold. Same with dowry laws. Even if dowry is made illegal the husband will continue to demand sums from bride’s in-laws to run the new family. Why should a husband not get some money from in-laws when the wife will be out of the work for 3-4 years??

          Who says the husband gets the wife’s gold??(Unless the husband steals it). Try asking most of the husbands in India to try and take away a gold chain of his wife and watch for the consequences. Stree dhan is different from varadakshina. Stree dhan is gold owned by the wife only. Either you yourself or your father must try asking your mother to part away with her mangala Sutra so that you or your father can buy a new car, and do post the results here.

          “Please do a random survey among parents who have both son and daughter and who are living with son, most of them will say that their daughter is helping them better than their son. Ask parents who have only daughters how happy they are. Next ask parents who have only sons how happy they are.”

          Random Survey :-D LOL. Random survey will give random results. Most of the parents still live with either one or many of their sons. Their daughters usually live away after marriage. So FAIL logic.

          ” It is daughters who look after their parents well even if they are staying away.” ROFLMAO. how do daughters do this? do they own helicopters or teleportation devices to fly to their parent’s house to give their father/mother a glass of water every time her parents call?? X-D

          “Even today as we speak there are parents and girls working hard to earn enough for their marriage. How many times have we come across guys working hard to earn for their marriage?” Take your Misandrous thoughts and leave India if you think Indians don’t take care of their women and are misogynous. We SERIOUSLY don’t need people like you. You can move to US/Europe where the laws are inherently anti-male and pro-feminists since those are the kind of laws you seem to like.

          “And who will save the girls if dowry is made legal?” If that was so, no girl in Andhra Pradesh would be getting married. But that isn’t the case.

          “The bottom line is guys should not get married if they can’t afford it” – So you are advocating EUGENICS??

          “Marriage is not a business partnership, its a new family.” Who says marriage is not a business partnership?? If it isn’t so, why are divorcee women demanding alimony and inheritance property of ex-husband?? Economics plays a huge role to hold marriages together. A healthy family economy ensures a healthy marriage.

          Anyway. Nice talking to u. I had a riot reading your thoughts. We will continue to fight people like you who are RAPING India through the advocation of garbage thoughts/Laws.

          Also since you keep saying men don’t take care of their parents, I should assume you yourself don’t take care of your parents and hence are extrapolating it and saying all Indian men don’t take care of their parents. Good-Bye.

          • itzguru

            Hello, I didnt decide it illegal, its the government which decided it, and its not only women who voted these govts to power.

            There would have been no law or govt interference in this matter in the first place if there were no complaints about dowry harassment lodged or if there had been not so many dowry related deaths.

            Of course, just like “husband will continue to demand sums from bride’s in-laws” even if dowry is made illegal, no wife or in laws will go and lodge a complain if husband and his parents follow what was agreed upon before marriage. So why all the fuss then?

            and when you cant argue logically you start becoming personal without even knowing anything about me or my parents?! God bless you.

            • rajiv

              “Sisters dont visit to talk important things to her brother’s maternal homes because nobody gives importance to girls in the society”

              ” On the other hand in this male dominated society”

              ROFL, Typical misandrous
              feminist bullshit. I will just say that it is not Indian hindus who cover their women in tents and burqas. Also Indian women have the highest per capita gold hodlings in the world, Far exceeding gold-holding per capita of women of any other country/race including the ‘richer’ US/Europe/Japan/Australia . GO FIGURE
              why are such misogynistic INDIAN HINDU MALES dumping so much gold on their women??

              “Hello, I didnt decide it illegal, its the government which decided it, and its not only women who voted these govts to power.”

              If you read my previous statements, I have written that the government ELECTED BY THE PEOPLE OF INDIA elected Morarji Desai who had banned gold holdings/gold import and the manufacture of high-karat gold jewelry. We all know how well those shitty laws were obeyed by Indians. And in any case, this is a failed democratic model where the people have no right to frame any sort of laws and only have the option of replacing
              one bad leader with another. Atleast Indian democracy is slightly better in that it has a multi-party model instead of garbage 2-party or 3-party model in countries like US, countries of Europe/Australia,etc.

              Our present ELECTED finance minister and prime minsiter are telling Indians not to buy gold and have increased the tax on gold/silver imports to 10% from 2% last year. Has is
              stopped gold smuggling/imports into india?? Hardly. Are most Indians aware that the tax on gold/silver imports has been increase from 2% to 10% within a year?? NO.
              Will the people of India come out in protest if Chiddu bans sale of Gold/Silver in India and shuts down the jewelry shops and confiscates the gold of all hindu temples in india by the GOVERNMENT ELECTED BY THE PEOPLE OF INDIA??
              YES. And these are not some wild accusations either. The present gov is well capable to committing some if not all of the crimes listed above.

              “There would have been no law or govt interference in this matter in the first place if there were no complaints about dowry harassment lodged or if there had been not so many dowry
              related deaths.”

              Again you haven’t read my older messages. If strict rape laws are enforced any male can be put in jail without trial based on a complaint by a woman looking to harass a man. Same is
              the case with dowry/domestic violence. Just based on complaints police cannot/should not put husband/in-laws in jail. Not all men are rapists or wife killers. As has been admitted by even the supreme court of india, that the misuse of dowry laws/domestic violence,etc is far greater than their genuine use.

              “and when you cant argue logically you start becoming personal without even knowing anything about me or my parents?! God bless you.”

              Let me see. You said MALE INDIANS generally do not take good care of their parents, sisters and harass bride’s in-laws(all this has been repeatedly said by YOU). I’m hoping you are a MALE INDIAN. So what makes you so special that you are exempt from your own self made statement?? Are not a MALE INDIAN?? So why is it that you do not harass your parents, sisters, wife’s
              parents, etc but other MALE INDIANS do it??
              ARE YOU SPECIAL??

              “If Hindu guys are being targeted so much by law, unlike girls, why isnt there mass protests, why isnt there a political movement by guys saying we need change and will vote only for those who bring in the change. After all Hindu men are the largest
              number of voters in the society, if majority of them are silent it only means for majority this is not a problem. Isnt it?”

              Because the percentage of divorce is still low in India and hence most people are not yet directly affected and are still oblivious to these hideous laws. Besides an average person does not follow the intricacy of these laws closely. Only those ex-husbands who have been harassed by these laws know about the reality of
              these laws. Also these laws are relatively new, that is 7-8 years old, and it is only since the past few years that the Tatakas have realized that they can harass husbands through these anti-male laws. With more education, more people will come front to oppose these anti-male laws, just like with education people of India will come forward to demand a gold/silver monetary system and run proper gold banks instead of fake ‘rupee’ banks. Keeping in mind that ‘rupee’/’ruupyaka’= silver and not some fancy coloured paper.

              The key issue here is EDUCATION and a BIASED MEDIA which does not highlight these important issues but instant has an agenda of its own.

            • Guest

              Dear Gurudev, there is a saying, when you do argument with a fool, they will bring you down to their level and beat you with their experience (at that level). Well, I haven’t gone through all the debate, but really like the information you provided in your article and the whole root cause of the dowry problem as it is today in India.

              • itzguru

                Thank you, yes you are right, but I only reply to some such comments so that others who read the chain might be well informed about any counter arguments I can provide.

        • pp_chn

          /* Please do a random survey among parents who have both son and daughter and who are living with son, most of them will say that their daughter is helping them better than their son. Ask parents who have only daughters how happy they are. Next ask parents who have only sons how happy they are. It is daughters who look after their parents well even if they are staying away.* /

          Most of the parents, even after marriage, are partial to their daughter than daughter-in-law. Hence no wonder DILs don’t want to care for their in-laws. Secondly, daughters after marriage are supposed to take care of THEIR in-laws not parents. How many of these daughters do?

          /* How many times have we come across guys working hard to earn for their marriage? */

          Guys are also supposed to take care of their parents & sisters once they start earning. Whereas the daughter (sister) is free to save all HER money for marriage, if she is unmarried & continues to live off her brother’s earnings. In this case, how can we say guys aren’t working hard to earn for their marriage?

          • rajiv

            “Guys are also supposed to take care of their parents & sisters once they start earning.” 100% right pp_chn. Brothers always have to take care of sister financially if she fails to earn a livelihood by herself. But vice-versa rarely happens. i.e sister giving brother money if brother’s career fails.

            Too bad the author is spouting same-old misandrous neo-feminist propaganda. Also notice that none of these neo-feminists(fake feminists) fight for the banning of burqa/niqab, the real enslavement of women, but instead put all blame on men, husbands, in-laws, brothers, etc with dirty blame-games and mud-slingings.

            • pp_chn

              /* Brothers always have to take care of sister financially if she fails to earn a livelihood by herself. */

              It doesn’t end there. From helping out monetarily for her marriage expenses, delivery , frequent visits to maternal home at later stages, everything ends up on the brother’s head, as the dad is no more an earning member. So its unfair for girls to get ANY property without the corresponding responsibilities.

              • rajiv

                Yes, i agree. That’s why matters like alimony, inheritance must be decided by the people involved and not lawyers/courts/laws.

                Make the pre-nup legal. Let the to be married couple themselves decide before the marriage who is going to pay whom what amount of money if the marriage breaks down based on the number of years married and also decide beforehand the custody of children,splitting of property, etc. If either party is not happy with the pre-nup agreements let them find another partner.

                Regarding inheritance, let the father-mother themselves decide who is going to get what. They have full rights to disown a son/daughter/daughter-in-law from inheriting if some of their son(s),daughter(s) have been unfaithful to them during their oldage years. They also have full rights to pass on their property after death to a known person who is not a blood relative, etc.

                LET THE PEOPLE MAKE AND FOLLOW THEIR OWN PERSONAL LAWS. Make pre-nup, inheritance will,etc fully legal. By getting courts/lawyers involved, we’ll soon start seeing corrupt divorce lawyers driving around in mercedes.

                • itzguru

                  There would have been no laws made regarding the alimony, inheritance etc if there were not so many people complaining about harassment, dowry death, and so on. Even today inspite of there being law, if families, people sort things among themselves where will the law come into picture?

              • itzguru

                Not the case always, think about sisters who are also earning well.

                Having said that, the monetary expense part on the brother comes precisely for the same reason we are discussing, if his brother-in-law is not demanding dowry, what is the expense? Next, frequent visits etc to maternal home, isnt he her brother? Sisters dont visit to talk important things to her brother’s maternal homes because nobody gives importance to girls in the society, will the brother’s inlaws listen to brother’s sisters if they make frequent visits to brother’s inlaws place? On the other hand in this male dominated society, sister’s inlaws will listen to her brother when he visits their place on behalf of their parents.

            • itzguru

              In which world are you living? as if parents stop earning the moment sons start earning. sisters dont give their earnings only in houses where parents are well off and have enough wealth. Look into those houses where parents are not well off and sisters are working hard to run the house.

              Your entire logic is wrong. If brothers are elders, they start earning first, and what about cases where sisters are elders? Do they stay back home without earning? And dont they look after their younger brothers when they earn?

              Its not about feminism nor about male chauvinism, its about equality. Dont harass anybody, be it a girl or a boy or girl’s parents or boy’s parents.

              I have been one of the vocal advocates of uniform civil code, personal laws should never be religion based. That is against equality of humans. Of course women in Hinduism have had the best of the rights compared to any other religion. Only in Hinduism we say Yatra Naryastu Pujyante…

              • pp_chn

                /* I have been one of the vocal advocates of uniform civil code, personal laws should never be religion based. That is against equality of humans. */

                Good to know you’ve drank the kool-aid of equality. Humans are not equal, not in looks not in IQ not in knowledge, not in religious practices, not in rituals. Especially the sexes. So you need to have different rules for different groups. One such group is women.

                UCC will be the death-knell for Hindus. If in 60 years you’ve not understood it, then even the Lord will not save Hindus. http://manasataramgini.wordpress.com/2013/02/10/the-end-of-the-heathens/

                Main bone of contention is that women (daughters) want to have RIGHTS to ancestral property without responsibilities. What do you have to say for that?

                • itzguru

                  Even if we for a moment agree to differ on the roles and responsibilities of men and women, are you saying that UCC where all men will have same civil code irrespective of their religion is BAD?

                  • pp_chn

                    /* Even if we for a moment agree to differ on the roles and responsibilities of men and women, are you saying that UCC where all men will have same civil code irrespective of their religion is BAD? */

                    Yes. Because like you said earlier, there are BOTH sides. In case of religion, every one wants to do it their own way. So, why force it down ALL of them?

                    • itzguru

                      lol, in that case why cry saying “people only talk about Hinduism, dont talk about less rights for women in other religions” and so on. We Hindus will talk only about our religion. Let other take of theirs. Isnt it?

                    • pp_chn

                      /* in that case why cry saying “people only talk about Hinduism, dont talk about less rights for women in other religions” */

                      I never said that. Also its not wrong to point out Hinduism is being targeted while the same behavior in other religions is condoned

                      /* We Hindus will talk only about our religion. Let other take of theirs. */

                      There goes your logic for UCC, out of the window.

                      Even among Hindus, let each family deal with ITS OWN money their way. Don’t put a common rule for all.

                    • itzguru

                      No I didnt say we dont need UCC. If something is illegal it should not depend on religion. Else tomorrow somebody will say, my religion allows cheating people. Shall we allow that as well?

                      Of course family matters are always decided by families. Things go out of hand only when somebody finds injustice being meted out to them or there is a crime committed when law has to intervene. After all we are in a society where we expect the rule of law for everything else. So we cant expect law to be a mute spectator when people are complaining.

                      If Hindu guys are being targeted so much by law, unlike girls, why isnt there mass protests, why isnt there a political movement by guys saying we need change and will vote only for those who bring in the change. After all Hindu men are the largest number of voters in the society, if majority of them are silent it only means for majority this is not a problem. Isnt it?

          • itzguru

            So you seem to be unaware or ignore the other side of the story where DILs are looked upon by guy’s parents as somebody who came to snatch their son from them and all his earnings? Its not all one sided, there are both versions. So to say just because of this we should allow dowry harassment is completely illogical.

            Of course DILs are supposed to take care of guy’s parents. Now if most sons are taking care of their parents and not daughter’s then isnt it logical that its the DIL who looks after them?

            Sisters dont give money ONLY when the parents are well off, not just because brother is working. Look at those homes where parents are not well off, you will see sisters working equally hard as brothers the moment she is able to earn.

            Taking care of your own sister, giving her a place in the house, and a share in the food, is that a big deal? Wasnt she doing it in the same house till the guy started earning? Who was looking after her till then? And to say the moment brother starts earning, the parents stop earning and its the brother who has to look after the sister? Is that how it happens? And sisters dont work? All guys have unmarried not working sisters living with them, or even when the sisters work they dont give ANY money back home if the parents are not well off and puts the entire responsibility on the brother?

            • pp_chn

              /* So you seem to be unaware or ignore the other side of the story where DILs are looked upon by guy’s parents as somebody who came to snatch their son from them and all his earnings? */

              Exactly why they favour their daughters more than DILs.

              /* Of course DILs are supposed to take care of guy’s parents. Now if most sons are taking care of their parents and not daughter’s then isnt it logical that its the DIL who looks after them? */

              If so, why should daughters get a share in ANCESTRAL property other than what is given by father/brothers to her during marriage?

              /* Sisters dont give money ONLY when the parents are well off, not just because brother is working. */

              Why shouldn’t they, when they are expecting to have a share in ancestral property?

              /* Taking care of your own sister, giving her a place in the house, and a share in the food, is that a big deal? Wasnt she doing it in the same house till the guy started earning? Who was looking after her till then? And to say the moment brother starts earning, the parents stop earning and its the brother who has to look after the sister? Is that how it happens? And sisters dont work? */

              Taking care of sister is not a problem, as long as MILs aren’t partial to their daughter.

              Once the brother starts earning, I din’t say father stops to earn. Generally the parents’ generation is almost retiring when the progeny starts earning. That’s what I meant.

              Yeah, what if sister is younger to the brother & is not employed or still studying, even if father had gotten retirement just because the son is ready & he wants to pass the baton to the son?

              So to say daughters deserve ancestral property when they don’t get additional responsibility is unfair to the brothers & his family.

              • itzguru

                This whole thing sounds as if women don’t work and always live on the money of their father, brother or husband, which I think is not how the modern society works. It might have been true once upon a time when women were NOT allowed to work. I have seen families where sisters work hard to make their brothers educated stay unmarried, brother if off to US after marriage, sister stays back with parents and looks after them. Have seen families where sister has given the gold which her husband brought her to help her brother who underwent a severe financial loss. So to say as if its all very one sided is wrong. There are both sides. And law is after all that law, trying to balance things, and in person lives no law will interfere if people are able to sort things among themselves.

                In fact it is a fact that female infanticide is a big issue in this country, just look at the falling male-female ratio. If this continues, forget giving property to daughters or sisters, there wont be enough daughters or sisters left in the first place and a day will come where guys will be ready to give all their wealth just to get married. This is already happening in many parts of the country where there is a severe male-female ratio and there are no girls available for guys. This according to me is a more serious issue in the society than fighting over wealth.

                • pp_chn

                  /* It might have been true once upon a time when women were NOT allowed to work. */

                  Women were allowed to work, but only alongside their husbands.

                  /* There are both sides. */

                  If so, then stop supporting UCC. Let each family decide according to its needs. Stop the government from creating laws such as unilaterally giving ancestral property to anyone, daughter or DIL.

                  /* In fact it is a fact that female infanticide is a big issue in this country, */

                  Do you support women’s right to have abortion? If yes, if they choose to abort females what is the problem here? Unless, you say they shouldn’t abort ANY FOETUS.

          • Guest

            So, that means this whole Hindu traditional system is wrong, for the man and for the women, both. Why not have a liberal system only, where men and women don’t have to take care of each other, just themselves and their children? Why force a man to earn for his sister, instead of everyone earning for themselves and their children? This whole Hindu traditional system is only wrong.

        • Guest20

          Thank you itzguru! Well put and my sentiments exactly! Marriage is NOT a business partnership. If a man wants that, he should continue on to business school. It’s about intimacy, love and starting a new family…your own life. And I agree 100% MOST parents who have to live with son’s are not happy (daughter in laws usually makes sure of this – though I myself do not get this logic. Because if you treat your husband’s parents well…your husband will worship you!)

          Men who are into this dowry crap need to realize that this makes them look very ignorant and weak. And if he cannot afford to start a family on his own merit…he’s not worthy of having a wife and children. That’s just MO.

      • Guest20

        if having children should make a man request dowry…then he should reconsider having children…since he cannot afford it.

  • Sriram B

    Thanks for the detailed article. It is REALLY INSIGHTFUL!

    The concept of Stri-Dhan still exists in some communities in India and works BEAUTIFULLY as it was intended to.

    One example of a community like this would be the Raju/Kshatriya community of the Godavari regions of Andhra Pradesh where women own the rights to property/gifts from their maternal homes, and this wealth would only go to their daughters and not the sons. Sons have a right to inherit only the fathers wealth, they would inherit their mothers wealth ONLY if she so wishes.

    I am from the Raju/Kshatriya community and I have seen this system work so beautifully in my family even to this date.

  • itzguru

    Hmm yes, this solution is like the reservation system, a reverse discrimination, and is prone not just to misuse, but cause more complex side effects. Not sure what I was smoking when I proposed it. Had a re-thought and have proposed a new solution. I am in sane mind now, and the solution sounds effective if implemented wisely.

    • reep

      i am afraid, even though the idealism surrounding dowry might be quite straight-forward, economics of it is horribly complicated. Try this practical problem for instance:

      suppose
      a newly-married couple wants to buy a new flat. in south kolkata (where i am from) a decent 3BHK flat would cost ~50 lakh. in delhi, mumbai, bangalore, hyderabad, pune, chennai it would probably be significantly higher than that. Assume the guy is 28 years old, earns 50K to
      60K per month. yearly savings would be atmost 2 lakh. so, if he is in job for 4 to 5 years, he has a savings of at most 10 lakh. so the rest 40 lakh, either his parents need to pay, or he has to take a loan. In case he takes a loan @11% ROI, for 20 years, he has to pay 41K (checked it from an EMI calculator). So, obviously it is not possible for him alone.

      So, either the guy’s dad has to pay the entire sum, or the girl’s side needs to make some contribution. This contribution, if made at the time of marriage one-time, is called “dowry”. however, is it fair that only the guy’s parents have to pay to set up a family that is also the girl’s? i think not! you might ask, isn’t it possible to involve anyone’s parents at all? yes, that is possible, if you are ready to borrow more money to balance it up, and banks are ready to make subprime loans, knowing fully well that the guy might not be able to return it. it inevitable leads to a financial crash like the one in US in 2008.

      Thus, the only viable option is if one generation sets the next generation up. Now, whether it is fair to have this “setting up” one-sided, you decide that. As far as I am concerned, a dowry is an economic deal. Like all other economic deals, it proceeds only if both parties are satisfied that it
      is fair….otherwise not. Government has no need/right to involve itself there.

      • itzguru

        And what if the girl’s parents cannot afford that much?

        The issue with dowry is not about economic co-operation, had that been the case there would have been no need for any legal intervention at all. What about all the violence that takes place in the name of dowry? That is the actual issue.

        It is about the harassment of the girl and her family that is taking place in the disguise of this “your daughter’s life”. It is not one time either, most dowry related issues start AFTER the marriage, many times a year or two later. And it is drive by greed most of the time, the demands keep ever increasing testing the threshold.

        How many guys or their parents who demand dowry talk the way you have described when demanding dowry. Do they say, we will give 10 lakh to my son, is it possible for you to arrange 10 lakh as well? Do they ever speak like this? No it is always, “how much can you give for your daughter”, which sounds like “this is my son’s rate.”

        And again coming to the house which both live in, how many husbands register the property in the name of their wife?

        • reep

          I was merely trying to give an economic justification of “contribution from the girl’s side” aka dowry in the times we live in. Since you have not contradicted that point, I assume you agree with me. As far as misuse of this economic deal is concerned, it is difficult to ascertain which side misuses it more. 498A is the most misused section of IPC. So much that Supreme Court had to call it “legal terrorism” recently. Just like “your daughter’s life”, it is very much “your and your son’s life” as well….do not forget that!

          Also, another way of curbing the menace is to curb female hypergamy. One thing that drives dowry, is 80% of women lining up for the top 20% of men. That gives the men a huge pool of women to choose from and get an artificially inflated position to bargain from. Girls can easily avoid dowry by marrying horizontally or downwards instead of vertically up. That gives them a much stronger position to bargain from. As much as money demanded from the girl’s side is driven by greed….don’t you think that the girl’s side seeking a better economic status than they are currently in, is not driven by greed? tell me, otherwise why there would be such a huge demand for IAS/IIT-grads and so little for average school masters! Isn’t that also greed?? Why is one form of greed so dishonourable while the other is accepted so unquestionably?

          • itzguru

            No, I dont agree with the economic justification, I have clearly said that since marriage is between two mature adults, any such economic deal prior to the marriage should be done between the bride and groom, not their parents.

            Dowry is not an economic agreement where both sides are equal, it is bullying and blackmail from the groom’s side. How many times have you read about husband committing suicide or being burnt alive by in-laws because of dowry harassment by girl’s parents?

            Of course there are incidents of misuse of legal provisions against dowry, and this happens in all legal provisions. But the amount of genuine dowry harassment cases far outnumber its misuse.

            Haha, greed is from both sides, and of course everybody wants a better life with their life partner. Its not limited to girls alone. How many guys are willing to marry an unemployed girl these days? How many guys are willing to marry girls who have not passed out of college? How many guys are willing to marry girls whose parents are not well off?

            Looking for a better life through marriage is not greed, it is hope for a better future. Nobody is forcing guys to get married to any girl A or B. For that matter, on the contrary because of increased female foeticide resulting in an unhealthy male-female ratio, many guys are not getting girls in the first place. And thanks to good employment opportunities most educated girls are making better choices of not marrying in families demanding huge dowry.

            A student looks for good marks, a graduate looks for good employment, girls and boys look for great partners, all this is not greed. What is greed is “demanding” money. Dowry is not just demanding share to buy a house as you are trying to make out. Guys’ side demand car, jewels, put pressure on girls’ side for a lavish wedding etc.

            Almost every marriage it is the girl’s side which has to bear the marriage expenses. Why are we not talking about equal sharing by both sides here?

          • hindsight2020

            You Sir are a gentleman and a scholar. You win +1 internets!

            The most critical hypergamy angle is non-existent in all dowry debates in the media!

            The dowry matter only comes up when trying to compete to move your daughter into a higher socio-economic bracket and not when she marries within her own bracket or below. In fact its a sadly beautiful thing that brothers and fathers endure to move her daughter up while the son toils like an ox on his “inherited property”.

            A major factor I believe that has always tilted this dowry argument (as with all other misandric tropes) is the “Apex fallacy”. Where conveniently the worst cases are cited as examples to create a “Sweeping Generalisation Fallacy”.
            If the same principles were used for automobiles, it can be argued that cars have been used for robberies, murders, kidnappings and even bombings! I can show you sooo many news articles about them! Therefore cars are bad, have no merit and they should be banned. You don’t need them to commute! How dare you! In ancient times people did not use cars and we were a great civilisation etc etc!

            Lastly the convenient dropping of the groom’s mother/sister’s role in ensuring they get the best bride for their son/brother.

            Anyways I greatly appreciate the author’s efforts in writing this piece but also and more importantly interacting and engaging this article into a discussion. If read in its entirety (along-with all comments) then this is amongst the best pages to understand the dowry system’s implications!

      • itzguru

        Even more importantly, this discussion about the economic co-operation should be between the girl and the boy getting married, because it is their life and future that they are discussing about, and they are mature adults, not kids to bring in their parents in this issue. They should only take suggestions (if they are well intentioned) from their parents, not decisions about how much your wife should bring and so on.

        Also by this logic a rich boy cannot marry a poor girl, or a rich girl cannot marry a poor boy, isn’t it?

  • itzguru

    You are right, updated the article and proposed a new solution…

  • Vinaypunnaku


    There should be a law which would state that, upon marriage all the property of the husband would be automatically owned by the wife, ie there would be no property rights for married men, at least for a period of 10 or 20 years.”
    This is the most stupid thing i’ve ever read. If you think all men are bad and all women are good, then you are delusional. My friend is currently a divorcee who got swindled by his ex wife and is currently fighting court cases and trying to save his property and wealth.  If you think only husbands can screw the wife and vice versa is not possible then I think you haven’t talked to families or you don’t live in India.
     Husbands and Wives should have equal right to their personal wealth. 
    Kindly let the law makers decide the law, don’t come up with foolish thoughts. BTW if the husband and wife were to decide to divorce after a period of 2-3 years after marriage how would your stupid law work? will the wife get to swindle all of the husbands life earnings?

  • Sanjay

    Good and information shared here must be true since so many masters have worked on it, and there is no doubt we belong and are part of the most richest culture on this earth.
    But Guru, the solution to it is not that the husband hands over all property to the wife, at the age of 25-30 where normally an Indian boy gets married, does not owe anything of his own. And if someone is lucky enough to be owner of some property belongs to a family who is rich and well settled, and is hardly heard in dowery case.
    I regret to say this as it may sound against my own country, but I love my country too, and the way I am proud of my country and I am blessed to be born here, wouldn’t hesitate to say to take an example of any country where there is prosperity and less crimes, for example countries in middle east, In Asia for example China and in west like USA , the law is very strict.
    Punishment is almost instant on any smallest to smallest and worst to worst crimes. When I say instant, it does not mean instant but literally  instant when compare to the number of days/months/years/and some times generation it takes to bring in judgement and the country where crime rate is low.
    What India needs desperately is the way our judiciary system works.
    I am not saying, they should hang a person blindly, but then there should be a way to work with it.
    You must be watching Crime Patrol on Sony, and also recent hit show of AAmir Khan’s Satyamev , I remember in recent broadcast of Crime Patrol which is always on real stories, I wonder a poor guy was jailed for 6months for Rs.200 stealing, which he never stole and it was never proved.
    The final verdict came, when he admitted Rs.200 were stolen by him, which was out of the frustration, the judge said the punishment for this sort of crime is 3months jail, and the convicted has already spent 6months in jail, he should be freed from then on.
    So any judge who kept increasing his dates of hearing, should have realised after 3months, even if the convicted admits, he is going to be released, should have warned him and release. So where does he go now to account for those 3months extra he spent in jail ?
    In Satyamev, we all saw , there has been so many doctors heard about their evil act, leveling down the nobility of the doctor’s profession, the medical counsil of india has not even cancelled license of any single doctor.
    The opportunity an innocent finds by our law to protect himself, the same opportunity a criminal finds for himself.
    Our law do protect all of us, whereby it should have been protecting only the innocents.
    A red handed caught criminal is given full opportunity to prove himself innocent, I mean how ??? Where does this happen on this earth ?

  • Sachin Purohit

    Interesting and very informative. It certainly changed my perspective on gender bias in Indian society. 

  • Sachin Knk

    Similar situation was there in South korea few years back …but not called as dowry….
     now there is a rule in south korea according to which entire husband salary goes to wife’s account. … this rule was bought in there to prevent lavish spending by men and less family importance…

  • Lupita

    Very nice and informative blog, just like all your other blogs. The solution sounds logical, however extra steps need to be taken in order to avoid misuses, which can be fatal for married men :P

    • itzguru

      True, this solution can definitely be misused, have updated proposing a new solution to nip it in the bud.