Dowries - a complex problem, what solution can you offer?

@vandana7 (57781)
India
April 6, 2010 8:56am CST
In India, dowry is a big issue. It is tough to get a girl married, and in some communities girls are killed as soon as they are born (sometimes even before), to escape from this impending financial problem. This is a sad practice, in the land of godesses. Ironically, the custom is imported from Europe during colonial times. But there are no easy solutions. Consider scenario 1. The parent gives dowry, i.e., the girl's share in his property. Whatever remains is for him, his wife, and his other children. After this girl departs, suddenly the parent's business flourishes, should the married girl have any right to additional fortune? Especially from the share that belongs to her parents? Scenario 2 - The parent gives dowry, the girl leaves with her share in properties as of that date. Financial position deteriorates. Is it not humane, and obligatory on part of the girl to bring back the monies to help her parents and siblings? Scenario 3 - The girl decides to take her share after her parents are no more. Now, the mother may start feeling obliged to the daughter in law who looks after her when she was ailing. So she may give her a few trinklets more than what she gives to her daughter. Or may choose to give more to her son's children. Does that justify fighing for equal share? Scenario 4 - The parent parts with the girl's share. And the siblings invest in some business. They do very well. Would it be right on part of the parents to then ask the siblings to help their sister who is now at a disadvantage. Generally, people do develop greater attachment towards the child who is there during hardships or during old age. And this usually the son. He spares time for his parents to take her to hospitals, book their tickets for pilgrimage, take them to train or airport, pick them up, and so many small and big things, which the girl escapes. From the girl's perspective, she has been helping her parents from the time she could till her marriage. So she should be entitled to something for that. Does it all have to be money? Do we have no real love between parent and a child? Do we have no real love between siblings? Sad that the world looks up to us as sentimental people. My solution - as mentioned elsewhere is - legalize the system. Let the government take dowry taxes. No movable property may be given to the girl, other than gold. And any such property cannot be liquidated for 25 years after it is bought. Government would issue a pass book after due verification of the properties to the parents of the girl. Any attempt to liquidate the property within the stipulated period would be deemed as dowry harassment. Nothing more should be given by the girl's parent. If it is given, he has not claims on it. It becomes obligatory on the girl to walk out of marriage - even if she has children - in case of dowry harassment. Its time girls stopped acting helpless and started earning for themselves and their children. What solutions can you offer?
12 responses
@kalav56 (11503)
• India
6 Apr 10
1]Hindu law is very clear on this issue.Daughters and sons have equal right over the property.Now, dowry is only an internal transaction[not recognised by law]and the daughter according to law has a right.Whether this prior dowry is reduced from her share is another internal transaction. But father is the the earning member and it is his discretion and if he writes a will then that stands. 2.If this is from a legal point of view then the question does not arise.THat is why parents are quite conscious and part with their money after keeping some for themselves.THey can give but not demand. 3The odd little things you have mentioned would not arise if siblings have a good understanding with each other and if parents inculcate a strong sense of family unity. 4.When parents have parted with the share and the daughter has been given hers , she has no more right in the business of the siblings.Parents cannot ask the sons to do that.What each does is one's own. First of all my solution would be that parents do not have more than 2 children. If there are are multiple children, this problem would never vanish because , human beings are greedy,moneyminded and this is getting increasingly worse.Anywhere, if there is common money , then there is a problem.If it is one immoveable asset and one child is occupying the premises then it gets aggravated. Now, when the parents have two or three children, they have a duty to educate and marry their children[in our system of arranged marriages].Now, the earning member of the family , the man, has sole right over his property.If it is ancestral, then this devolves on the descendants as per the will. One thing Vandana! A man who is the breadwinner must write his will[if it is his property] and not allow the woman to take her decisions.Women are irrational and as the earning member he has the sole right to apportion it according to his discretion.
@vandana7 (57781)
• India
6 Apr 10
And Kala, will creates a separate level of jealousy, which is not voiced. Internally the sibling would become your enemy, while externally acting as if everything is hanky dory. :(
@kalav56 (11503)
• India
6 Apr 10
Will may create jealousy but nothing can be done.With or without a will, people who tend to be jealous would always be.THen there is still going to be suspicion. Essentially, it all depends on a person's mental makeup.Parents have much to answer for too Vandana.THe whole trouble starts when they play favourites and if there is not all round magnanimity. I think money is the cause of all problems and with or wihtout this internal transaction of dowry, even in the property division the problem can always arise.Well it relieves one of the tediousness of weighing gold and silver given as dowry and calculating the interest for the cash given as dowry.Apart fro m this lack of small work, the problem would still be there if the money is sizeable.
@SViswan (12095)
• India
16 Apr 10
I agree with Kalav that it all boils down to the understanding between the siblings. I know my father's siblings do not fight over property (there are 9 of them) and I also know that my sister and I will not. And the property is made or retained by one of the parents and I think it's their sole right to decide who it goes to or how much each one gets. Why should a wayward son/daughter who never respected the parents get even a bit of the property just because of birth?
@saphrina (31740)
• South Africa
6 Apr 10
Sweetie, the only thing i am going to say. And i am not trying to be offensive in any way. Firstly i cannot believe parents can kill their child. Secondly, what are children there, Furniture. It sounds really bad. I will never understand why you have to pay for someone to get married. TATA.
@vandana7 (57781)
• India
6 Apr 10
Hi angel, not everything in the world is as good as it seems. :( It is true you know - killing girls. :( In comparison, a strict family planning measure would seem almost innocuous. :( There is a part of the country where the ratio has gone so bad that half the boys dont get girls! Imagine how many crimes against women can occur there! And one magazine did an article which showed a girl married to three or four brothers! Just a couple of weeks ago we came across a news item - a village witnessed the marriage of a girl after 17 years - meaning there were no girls to be wed in that village! So that is reality. The custom is cruel. Made perfect by greed. :)
@saphrina (31740)
• South Africa
6 Apr 10
Sweetie, for the first time in my life i am really at a loss for words. What the hell is wrong with the world? There must be something to be done. Really, if i should ever get there, then you will have trouble. TATA.
@vandana7 (57781)
• India
6 Apr 10
Be careful. You cant be a firebrand here. :) Here, they believe in humiliating a woman who does raise a voice against the system. :) They wouldnt hesitate in taking life, leave alone other atrocities. :(
@Buchi_bulla (8299)
• India
6 Apr 10
First of all giving dowry is illegal. Secondly, parents give money and jewelery with love and affection to their daughter. If it is taken under pressure, then it is dowry and police should enter the scene. 1. If parents' business flourishes after the girl got married, then it is not obligatory to give anything to her. But a share can be given to her out of love and affection, not as a right, only on the condition of providing enough for the other siblings. 2. If the business deteriorates, again out of humanitarian grounds, girl can help her parents, if her position is secure. 3. If siblings flourish in business out of the money given by their parents, it is just like how the girl got money from her parents, the siblings got money from their parents. Hence no obligation to give her anything. It is because of their efforts that they got good business. But out of affection, they can give anything to her. Now-a-days love marriages are taking place everywhere and dowry is automatically getting decreased on its own. Wherever dowry is there, the girls are coming forward to go against it. Overnight no social reform will take place. It is going in a correct path and one day our children will see a dictionary in which the word dowry is not there.
@vandana7 (57781)
• India
7 Apr 10
Hi Buchi - it is not - at least not in our communities. We still take dowries, and we still give dowries. :( We are from the educated class! Dont tell me people who attend big marriages dont know that it costs money!
@kalav56 (11503)
• India
7 Apr 10
Hi Buchi! The dictionary only defines it as the property brought by a wife to a husband though the legal dictionary gives the meaning of "consideratio n by any party to aother during marriage" According to IT , the gifts and money the girl brings along with her is called "Sthreedhan".With love marriags on the increase there would be les interaction on the parents' sides I guess.
@vandana7 (57781)
• India
7 Apr 10
Buchi your solutions are what are right. But in real life, many people avoid doing the right things. So law becomes essential. Love marriages would be great. :)
@SViswan (12095)
• India
6 Apr 10
Hmm...I'm not sure how it is at your place but in Kerala, where I am from...the girls have first right over the property. Though dowry is a common practice nowadays, it wasn't so earlier because ours is a matriarchal system. In my case, my parents did gift me gold. We are two girls..and there has been no property partition...in fact my sister and I do not even know what our dad's assets are. We are not bothered about it and will not fight about it. Now, I can't say if our husbands will. 2 years back, our father spoke about giving us our due because he didn't want to handle it (he lives outside India)...but my husband refused and it didn't happen. My father has 9 siblings and I have not seen any dowry problems regarding land or gold. If one of them is in trouble, anyone who can will help (most often my father who even helps out my mother's side of the family). The only time I heard any land dispute over dowry was between my mother's sisters. I don't know what the outcome was and my grandfather wasn't alive then...but my grandmother was and she was living in the ancestral home with her oldest daughter. Since we were never involved in such things, I have no idea what it was really about...just remember a lot of shouting at each other about 'this part of the land' and 'that part of the land'. But it does make sense to legalize the system ..no idea if dowry taxes would be a good idea...but if it is legalized, then maybe laws that are acceptable can be laid down...and marriages can be more of the union of people instead of a show of extravagance.
@vandana7 (57781)
• India
7 Apr 10
Hi SViswan, you are the first person to accept that the present system is a failure, even though you do not have much idea of what it is. Since the present system is not working, I think we do need to try something new - and that is legalizing the system! I agree all forms of extravagance should be banned - hefty taxes for such things! You are lucky you are in matriarchal society. But even that is getting corrupted, as you yourself are realizing.
@SViswan (12095)
• India
16 Apr 10
Personally, I feel there are a lots of loopholes in many of the systems in India. I also feel helpless because just a few us taking a few steps in the right direction will not even create a ripple in the system...I feel like I'm complaining without doing much....but that's the way it is. Do you think banning any form of extravagance is going to help? People are just going to find ways around it.
@vandana7 (57781)
• India
16 Apr 10
Oh no SViswan, I dont want the extravagance to be banned! I want the Income Tax department to get invitation for every function. The dimensions of the room, and everything there can be classifed as a, b, c, d category function. Then if it is an a category function - the person should be asked to pay some amount of tax for that function, and "b" category slightly lower, and so on. That way people would automatically bring their standards down. As to attending functions, which IT officer would refuse free lunch. :) Of course, the parties would have a function of a class, and try to portray it to be c class. So the photographs and videos of the function should also be taken but only be collected from the IT department after paying taxes. The car parking itself can itself give an idea about which type of crowd has come, and how much must have been spent. I am not for disrupting joy. Insane spending!
• India
6 Apr 10
According to 1961 Indian dowry act "dowry" is defined as a gift demanded or given as a precondition for a marriage. Gifts given without a precondition are not considered dowry, and are legal. Asking or giving of dowry is punishable by an imprisonment of six months, or a fine of up to Rs. 15000 or the amount of dowry whichever is higher. It also entails a imprisonment up to 5 years. It replaced several pieces of anti-dowry legislation that had been enacted by various Indian states.I think this act is sufficiently effective in arresting the dowry menace.
@vandana7 (57781)
• India
6 Apr 10
Hi Achilles, you are not right on that count. I know that there are people even today who take dowries - in our community the rates have touched almost 1 crore and above. :) Surely, people who can give that kind of money are not uneducated and for them 15000 is much too little a punishment. :) I think punishment should have been as a percentage of wealth or something rather than a fixed amount. And I am for precondition. In fact, registering the precondition. That way - the person comes under regular contract. After this - he shouldnt be able to demand. Gifts without precondition - that is just another name for dowry.
• India
6 Apr 10
Vandana, I said, "a fine of up to Rs. 15000 or the amount of dowry whichever is higher." Besides, laws alone cannot take care of the moral of the people. There ought to be something else beside the law. Government may device ways and means to check this menace, but people with low morals will always find a loophole to circumvent that law. They should mete out stricter punishment and that alone would take care of it. Don't you think registration of precondition would involve lot of paper work and it might as a consequence increase corruption?
@vandana7 (57781)
• India
6 Apr 10
I would ask for taxes on dowry then. :) Corruption yes - people would be torn between paying taxes and reducing the value of dowries they paid. :) Government would get good revenue. And those who have been using loopholes would have to face the fact that they should not be marrying their child to a person they cant really afford.
@dawnald (84157)
• Shingle Springs, California
6 Apr 10
eliminate dowries
@vandana7 (57781)
• India
7 Apr 10
Wish at least half of our population was as rational as you are. :( But we make sizeable population of this world you know. :( The rich are educated are finding new ways to increase such demands, and the middle class and poor have little choice but to follow these precedents. If I could I would ban ostentatious marriages. The other day I attended a wedding - my auditor's son's wedding. He spent 20 lakhs ($47,619) for the hall, shows, food, and gifts (other than dowry)! And that is only the wedding. You will have reception that will be equally grand. We are talking about cost of a decent three bedroom apartment being blown away! Of course, the girl's father will foot the bill as part of the dowry.
1 person likes this
@dawnald (84157)
• Shingle Springs, California
7 Apr 10
Pretty extravagant for an event that was soon over...
@speakeasy (4215)
• United States
6 Apr 10
Well, you could always switch over to the a "bride-price system" - in this system the wife brings nothing except her person and her skills to the marriage - the man must come up with enough money to pay her family for the loss of her services. This would prevent lazy men from marrying a woman for her money and eliminate peoplle killing/abandoning girl babies. Or, you could just dump the whole money system, like most of the civilized world. That would eliminate all of the problems you listed.
@vandana7 (57781)
• India
7 Apr 10
India is far from reaching that civilized status in this aspect. This is the easiest way to earn monies. They say we have spent so much on educating the boy to bring him to this earning potential. Out here, few believe in love marriages because they can get more monies in this way to make their lives comfortable. On the one hand the government is coming up with laws that are meant to stop such practices, whereas the rich class comes up with new types of demands, which the poor lamely follow. It is laziness on the part of the girl as well as boy. The girls dont want to work, and happy enough taking monies from their parents. The boys cleverly say they are not demanding it is the parents. The brid-price system is actually a muslim custom. But even the muslims have left that customs to adopt dowry system. So much for religion. :(
@speakeasy (4215)
• United States
7 Apr 10
"The brid-price system is actually a muslim custom." Actually, it originated in Africa and was later adopted by Muslims. It has nothing to do with religion. It was developed because without a wife you cannot have children to follow you and care for you in your old age; women were valued workers not an extra mouth to feed; and women were more likely contribute to the support of their families instead of gambling, drinking, and whoring their earnings away. Just because no money changes hands does not mean that the "civilized" marriages are "love marriages". Some are; but, many are actually "marriages of convenience". Being married can help with promotions at work, health benefits for a person who does not have them, provide legitamacy to children, hide homosexuality, etc. "The girls dont want to work, and happy enough taking monies from their parents." Isn't that due to the way they are raised? The parents tell them this it is supposed to be when they are little and the schools do not even try to provide them with the same education and goals. It wasn't that many years ago that the same was true in the US. When I was attending school in the 60's and early 70's, there was a major difference in the emphasis in what boys were taught and what girls were taught. Most girls were not expected to go on to college, but, the ones that were being guided toward college were being led toward teaching, nursing, decorating and design, etc.; not, electronics, engineering, physicians, law, etc. It has taken almost 4 decades to make changes and there are still plenty of schools, parents, and guidance counslors who are trying to limit and restrict options for girls. Change takes time; but, it also requires someone to stand up and start the change! Someone has to get it started. More will follow.
@dropofrain (1168)
• India
7 Apr 10
Dowry is a social evil that is prevailing in our inner society. Every caste people wants to take Dowry. This is a complex problem which is not yet get any solutions. Because every person who called himself a person of great value practice this evil. I am a girl and I personally can say about this malpractice and wants to eradicate it from the society, as government had made many laws to eradicate it but this is gone in vain. First of all we should realize this evil ,we should take action on it then depends upon the government.A girl who is to be married should look that her father is not giving dowry, then a father should be against of this system and again the bridegroom should have a self respect that he can take care of his wife without taking dowry and again in law's don't think or keep this issue as their prestige, after that this practice should removed. For this education is the greatest factor which help in the matured thinking of a bride, her father, bridegroom and his father.
@vandana7 (57781)
• India
7 Apr 10
Hi dropofrain, it is a great relief to know that there are people like you in this country. :) Education helps. But there are educated girls who have it all calculated, and they feel that taking their share and giving to in laws will earn them better status. Many of these girls dont want to work! I think you know how things are. So they make the poor parents get into loans, and try for an alliance in which the boy would keep the girl at home! Wouldnt it be easier if the girl agreed to marry a step or two lower, and worked? But who wants to do that!
@khalida (1130)
• India
6 Apr 10
what? isn't dowry about giving a lot of money to the groom's side when u are getting ur daughter married away?? why u talking about property here??
@1anurag1 (3581)
• India
6 Apr 10
yes this is one of the biggest problem. and as money came , no one point out the problem as in other problems they say that this is not in religion. but due to money most of the people dont react. what ever. there is no direct solution. there must be some communities. which can be made and families must join them. they must be given a better place as they are against some bad habit in society. the community member can marry their son or daughter to other community member and there must not be any kind of dowry between them. and if some one does this is the responsibility of the community to make that family popular who did this.
@vandana7 (57781)
• India
6 Apr 10
Hi anurag, our society does have to wake up. We will end up as albinos if we continue to marry within a community. The reason this community feeling is strengthened is also may be because of dowries. Some communities have more of it, while others have less of it. :( Rotten system. No easy solution. :(
@umabharti (3976)
• India
6 Apr 10
Dowry.The centuries are passing by but the word dowry is never lost or we never forget that word.i dont thnk that that word would vanish from the world and like a country like india it would never happen.may be after a long years we can see some difference.
@vandana7 (57781)
• India
6 Apr 10
Hi Umabharti, my call on this is we tried banishing it, but didnt succeed in removing it. Why dont we try legalizing it, and collect taxes on it. That way government would be more inclined to learn how much money is really passing without paying any gift taxes and such things. I have only suggested a way. There may be a way you might have thought. Please share your thoughts.
@kalav56 (11503)
• India
6 Apr 10
To me, your discussion seems to be more in the like of property partition than dowry Vandana.What is it?
@vandana7 (57781)
• India
6 Apr 10
Hi kala, dowry is a type of property partition.