This post has been written by Diksha Dubey , a second year student from Amity Law School, Amity University, Chattisgarh.
The status of women in almost all parts of the world is discriminatory and prejudicial because of male dominated societies practical inequality between men and women everywhere. Women in fact, not only in a primitive society, but also in this modern global world in certain places, irrespective of rural or urban, rich or poor has been treated as a tool in kitchen room and toy in the hands of her husband and collaterals. Since the time immemorial, women as a whole in this universe, were placed inferior to men as the women could not act independently and had to rely on a man for doing anything. In other words she had to take the consent of her father or husband for taking any decision.
Women deserve to be conferred supreme status for the reason, she is not only creature of the world but also instrumental for growth and development of the family including the progress of her husband in particular. It is an admitted fact that ours is a civilized society and in our society human relationships play a very important part. These human relations are important for various kinds of interactions among the human beings and but for these human relations, it will be impossible for the society to exist and maintain its institutions. One of the basic characteristic of these human relationships is mutual involvement, which involves appropriate interaction by both the parties to a relationship. These relationships necessarily involve mutual trust, regard for each other, because without them, human relations cannot come into existence, nor they can be perpetuated with benefit to both the parties. These human relationships are necessarily limited in number and in respect of the degree of interaction and therefore before entering into these relationships, people carefully consider whether the other person with whom the relationship is to be developed, is fit for the proposed relationship or not. In other words before a human relationship can be consciously brought into existence by deliberate act on the part of parties, a conscious and deliberate process of selection takes place in which the parties to the proposed relationship make a scrutiny of each other with a view to find out whether the proposed relationship should or should not be established. This necessarily requires that the person intending to be a party to a proposed relationship must be eligible for such relationships. It is for the purpose of showing the eligibility for a proposed human relationship that certain customary norms of human conduct are to be voluntarily obeyed so that the proposed relationship may be consciously brought into existence by the act of both the parties. In customary manner, any form of interaction is prevalent in various communities for the purpose of convincing the parties that they are fit for the proposed relationship. Some gifts in cash or in kind are therefore “customarily” given in certain communities as well as in certain families. Gifts which are customarily given at the time of engagement, tilak or marriage must therefore be regarded as gifts according to customs prevalent in the concerned communities or families for the purpose of certain human relationship with the members of that family. These gifts cannot be regarded as entrustment, not they can be regarded as dowries. These gifts are not intended to be considerations for marriage. It can be observed that during the period proceeding and succeeding the composition of Manusmriti, certain types of gifts and presents were necessary to complete different forms of marriages. According to Shastric injunction as well as under customary practice, a girl’s parents were under a sacred liability to provide the girl with dowry in cash and kind but that was totally voluntary, it was neither compulsory nor was it a consideration for marriage. The value consideration for marriage in ancient India was of two types 1. That flowing from the bridegrooms party and paid to the parent or guardian of the girl as the price for the bride (sulka) which was not approved by the Shastras 2. That flowing from the bride’s party to the bridegrooms as the price for condescending to marry the girl, which was not disapproved by the Shastras. All the same, both of these are valuable consideration irrespective of the direction from , or to, which these flow. In both, a particular marriage could come into existence only by the moving of valuable consideration and failing which, the marriage could not be brought about. What ill-effects on the society in the ancient times these two forms of valuable consideration had, is beyond our comprehensions today. Gradually , the old concept of marriage being sacraments started dwindling, yielding place to the above commercial concept. The scruples of the parents or guardians of the parties to the marriage changed their colour and man started conducting business even with his off springs. Moreover, a time came when barring solitary exceptions of person still imbibed with old religions idea of a sacrament a vast majority of the members of the society made it a routine practice to indulge in one or the other of aforesaid two kinds of valuable considerations depending on the peculiar conditions pertaining to the sexual majority prevailing in that part of the country. An indication of the increase in dowry deaths is the spread of the evil of dowry, the root cause of such deaths “the form in which dowry exist since the last quarter century has no root that can be traced to the traditional marriage rituals. As per the ancient custom Kanyadan was followed by the ritual of vardakshina, which was a nominal amount, decided unilaterally by girl’s father according to his financial position, yatha shakti. It did not comprise of any evil motive of extracting money or gifts from the bride’s parents. With increasing industrialization breeding the desire to make fast money Dakshina originally intended to be a token gained all characteristics of a market transaction. The custom which had its origin in sublime sentiments has now become a curse for the whole of society. The universal form of marriage in the 19th century was marriage by purchase. The amount varied with the wealth and position of the families. The coercive element, too, started creeping into the post and pre marriage ceremonies. The Indian philosophy poses the women with dual character. On the other hand, she is considered fertile, patient and benevolent but on the other hand, she is considered aggressor and represents Shakti. In the Indian society the position of a girl is more delicate than that of a boy, and a girl who could not be married before a certain age would be dubbed as socially unfit for marriage. This state of thing made it necessary for the parent or the guardian of the girl to become extra anxious to marry her below a particular age. The anxiety on their part provides the incentive for the bargaining spirit on the side of the bridegroom. Dowry in the sense of the bride’s price or the bridegroom’s price, spread like a contagious disease and ultimately unbearable proportions. Many a girl belonging to noble families could not be married due to the inability of their parents or guardians to find resources to meet the exorbitant demands of the other side. There have been instances where such girls were compelled to commit suicide because a girl remaining unmarried after the marriageable age, was considered a dishonor to the family. And for their parents or guardians, this unsolved problem created a sore in their heart. This problem became a constant source of worry to them and shortened their life span. In many parts of our country, women are still considered to be a burdensome appendage. She is an economic drain. She must be exploited or dispensed with as a non-person because she crushes her family with marriage and dowry expenses. Her birth in many parts of the country is greeted with silence, even sorrow in contrast, a boy arrives to the sound of joyous conch shells. Discrimination begins at birth or even before it and continuous till she is dead. Dowry constitute property given either to secure an agreement to marry or given at the time of marriage in exchange for or as the reason for the marriage. The modern system of dowry is a problem of a highly conformist culture which makes it almost impossible not only for dowry seekers but also for the dowry victims to desist from such an evil practice. If a particular boy is opposed to accept dowry, the girl’s parents insist. A non-dowry marriage will lower their status amongst the relatives or will prove that the son is worthless. The modern dowry system has reached gargantuan proportions, it however had a humble beginning, as stray incidents shows. A groom would refuse to proceed with the marriage rituals half way through unless the demand for a cash, jewelry, electrical appliances, furniture, bedding, crockery, utensils and other household items that help the newlyweds set up their home was not met. These not only create confusion as the bride’s kin went around arranging the item at zero hour, but also caused an embarrassment to them. The girl’s parents succumbed to this hold up due to social and economic pressure because in olden days marriage was the only career for women. Parents were always too eager to get their daughter married lest they remain a burden on the family for the rest of their lives. This system of dowry has ruined many families and created many unhappy homes. Of late it has been seen that not only brides but prospective teenaged girls out of sheer frustration seeing the worried look on the face of their parents all the time, are driven to commit suicide. Some cannot reconcile themselves to the unbearable trauma of making an exhibition of themselves and parading before the prospective in laws only to be rejected because of dowry are too high. There has been alarming increase in cases relating to harassment, torture, abetted suicide and dowry deaths of young innocent brides. This growing cult of violence and exploitation of the young brides, though keeps on sending shock waves to the civilized society whenever it happens, continues unabated. There is a constant erosion of the basic human values of tolerance and the spirit of ‘live and let live’. Lack of education and economic dependence of women have encouraged the greedy perpetrators of the crime. In these cases very few culprits of heinous crimes are ever convicted. If a woman survives her burns, she often succumbs to conciliatory sweet talks of her husband’s and the in- laws because she has to go on living with them. In most of the cases there is no other support structure to help her. On the other hand, if she dies, evidence of flow play is difficult to come by. The deed happens indoors, the family promptly cries ‘accident’. Neighbors who heard or ever see the crime do not want to get involved. The police are also not of much help. Cases fail due to inadequate police investigations. Most of the cases of bride and dowry deaths are cases of pre-planned murders, committed in the privacy of the culprit’s home. It is not an east task to get direct evidence or any eye witness, only the conduct of the accused and the circumstantial evidence is there for adjudicating about the truthfulness or otherwise of the prosecution case. A witness may lie but circumstances do not lie. There are cases where the greed for money and feeling of revenge on failure to extract it makes the husband and the in-laws totally heartless and devoid of all human feelings and sentiments and even the pathetic cries for help and entreaties for mercy fall on deaf ears.
The social realities of life have changed drastically but the old thinking about the submissive and dependent role of women has not changed. Women’s traditional role as housewife and mother is institutionalized. Indian girls are still trained and socialized for these roles from childhood, the new role of a working woman creates confusion and ambivalence. The woman is in a dilemma, whether to adhere to her traditional sex norms or to emergent norms of the occupational roles. The husband expects her to play the role of a traditional wife at home and merge her identity in her man as a river flowing in the ocean but outside he expects her to act like a modern woman. Problems arise due to the conflicting demands put on her as a good husband and an efficient employee. The consequences of sexual harassment at work for the employer include disrupted work, reduction in productivity and quality of work, demoralized staff, financial loss related to increased turnover of staff, etc. Women can be burnt for not bringing enough dowry, tortured and harassed for not providing money to their alcoholic husbands, raped to satisfy the lust of males, or just to reach them a lesson for being bold and outspoken. Social compulsions and absence of support structures outside the institution of marriage force many women to bear crimes relating to marriage. Most of the women do not even report the crime for fear of social stigma. They are different of getting any relief through court action.
Indian Constitution is rightly the most significant touchstone for determining the scope of woman’s rights in the post-independence period. Article 15(3) empowers the state to make special provisions for them. In tune with various provisions of the constitution the state has enacted many women specific and women related legislations to protect women against social discrimination, violence and atrocities and also to prevent social evil child marriages, rapes, dowry, practice of sati , etc. For more than a century inspite of tall words of respect for women, there has been an onslaught on their liberties through ‘bride burning’ and ‘dowry deaths’.This has caused anxiety to the legislators, judiciary and law enforcing agencies, who have attempted to resurrect them from this social choke. There have been a series of legislation in this regard, without much effect. This led to the passing of the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961. The dowry evil is essentially a social one having relation with property rights of women. This practice took away in every family. Inspite of the large number of ‘bride burning’ and dowry deaths continued. To meet this, stringent measures were brought in the Indian Penal Code and the Evidence Act through amendments. It seems certain sections of the society are still pursuing this chronic action to fulfill their greedy desires. Inspite of stringent legislations, such persons are still indulging in these unlawful activities, not because of any shortcomings in law but under the protection principle of criminal jurisprudence of benefit of doubt. Often, innocent persons are also trapped or brought in with ulterior motives. This places an arduous duty on the court to separate such individuals from the offenders. Hence, the courts have to deal such cases with circumvention, sift through the evidence with caution and scrutinize the circumstances assumes greater importance and it is expected that the courts would deal with such cases in a more realistic manner. However, in spite of these amendments the situation was not improved. Women continued to get burnt in their homes. Until the dowry system is completely abolished, it would continue to take the lives of innocent brides.
- To educate the rural and urban women’s about dowry.
- To conduct awareness programmes in public places.
- To conduct investigation speedily and punish the accused within time bound.
- Governments give wide publicity to the citizens.
Dowry murder is a crime of the relatively affluent and takes place when faltering traditional values collide with unbridled 21st century consumerism. Most of the killings seem to involve a breakdown of the traditional moral constraints, the increasing acquisitiveness of the bourgeoning middle class and the disregard for women that is rooted in certain values of conservative Hinduism. The compulsions are overbearing and awe inspiring. Ultimately, it is the inability of the woman to bargain for herself in present social and legal set up. A man can get away after maltreating, beating and throwing out his wife because he knows that she is easily replaceable. There are enough desperate parents willing to marry their daughters to just about any man available but such is not the case with a woman. No one is there to help her, all are there to exploit her helplessness. He treated as a bitch on heat, all the dogs of the street are there to lay their claim her. The woman controls nothing in her martial family, not even her own thinking. She is forced to accept that it is better to suffer in silence like so many other women that to revolt. Some time or the other the cup of woe will be full and the justice come on its own. It analyses various causes, social, political, economic and psychological factors that are responsible for these crimes and the compulsions that make women tolerate them without lodging vehement protests, and tries to find out why the society does not help the victim it encourages the culprits to commit more crimes by condoning their mindsets. A critical survey of various crimes committed against women reveals that neither education nor the laws have changed the basic notions regarding a woman’s worth. Our protective laws fall like the proverbial pack of cards in face of social realities. Materialism influenced by greed seems to the primary cause for consistent dowry- related violence against women. Gender insensitivity coupled with difference patronized by patriarchy fuels this attitude beyond imagination. This is the precise reason why cruel and inhuman acts in the form of dowry deaths continue to take place unabated. In consonance with this objective, substantive, procedural and evidentiary aspects dealing with dowry law have been dealt with in the lights of both , statutory law and judicial decisions. This is within the view to facilitate effective capacity building on the part of those who shoulder the responsibility of law enforcement and also to enhance levels of awareness among those who are either directly or indirectly concerned with the issue.