Dowry System In India
The dowry system in Indiarefers to the durable goods, cash, and real or movable property that the bride's family gives to the groom, his parents and his relatives as a condition of the marriage. Dowry is essentially in the nature of a payment in cash or some kind of gifts given to the groom’s family along with the bride and includes cash, jewelry, electrical appliances, furniture, bedding, crockery, utensils, vehicles and other household items that help the newlyweds set up their home.Dowry is referred to as Dahez in Arabic.
The dowry system can put great financial burden on the bride's family. In some cases, the dowry system leads to crime against women, ranging from emotional abuse and injury to even deaths.The payment of dowry has long been prohibited under specific Indian laws including the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961 and subsequently by Sections 304B and 498A of the Indian Penal Code.
Types Of Dowry Crimes
Dowry is considered a major contributor towards observed violence against women in India. Some of these offences include physical violence, emotional abuses, and even murder of brides and young girls prior to marriage. The predominant types of dowry crimes relate to cruelty (which includes torture and harassment), domestic violence (including physical, emotional and sexual assault), abetment to suicide and dowry death (including, issues of bride burning and murder).
The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
Section 2 - Definition of `dowry’
Dowry means any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectlyby one party to a marriage to the other party to the marriage.
Section 3 - Penalty for giving or taking dowry
If any person, after the commencement of this Act, gives or takes or abets the giving or taking of dowry, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years, and with the fine which shall not be less than fifteen thousand rupees or the amount of the value of such dowry, whichever is more.
Provided that the Court may, for adequate and special reasons to be recorded in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than five years.
Section 4 - Penalty for demanding dowry
If any person demands directly or indirectly, from the parents or other relatives or guardian of a bride or bridegroom as the case may be, any dowry, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to two years and with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees.
Provided that the Court may, for adequate and special reasons to be mentioned in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than six months.
Criminal Statutes – Ipc, Crpc & Evidence Act
Section 304B was added to the Indian Penal Code, 1860 ("IPC"), which made dowry death a specific offence punishable with a minimum sentence of imprisonment for 7 years and a maximum imprisonment for life. It provided that if the death of a woman is caused by burns or bodily injury or occurs in suspicious circumstances within 7 years of her marriage, and there's evidence to show that before her death, she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or his relative regarding the demand for dowry, then the husband or the relative shall be deemed to have caused her death.
Section 113B of the Evidence Act, 1872 ("Evidence Act"), creates an additional presumption of dowry death when it is shown that before her death, the woman had been subjected to cruelty on account of dowry demand.Section 304B IPC along with Section 113B of the Evidence Act have enabled the conviction of many who were not caught by the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. Section 113A of the Evidence Act provides a similar presumption of abetment of suicide (which is an offense under Section 306 IPC), in case of death of a married woman within a period of seven years of her marriage.
Section 498A IPC was specifically included in 1983 to protect women from cruelty and harassment.
Domestic Violence Act, 2005
The Domestic Violence Act encompasses all forms of physical, verbal, emotional, economic and sexual abuse and forms a subset of the anti-dowry laws to the extent it is one of the reasons for domestic violence.Section 3 of the Domestic Violence Act specifically incorporates all forms of harassment, injury and harms inflicted to coerce a woman to meet an unlawful demand for dowry.