Despite the Indian Parliament having passed strict laws against the evil practice, thousands of young women continue to be murdered each year across the country, in the name of dowry.
Dowry Prohibition Act
In 1961, barely 11 years after the adoption of the Indian Constitution, the Indian Parliament passed its first legislation against dowry in the form of Dowry Prohibition Act, which criminalised demanding and giving dowry. This act was given significantly more teeth in amendments in 1984 and 1986.
These amendments, notably of 1986, added dowry deaths to the section 304 (b) of the Indian Penal Code which made dowry deaths culpable homicides. In 1983, another section 498 (A) was added to the penal code which further strengthened the anti-dowry provisions and obliged the police to arrest a woman’s in-laws in the case of harassment and/or cruelty. It was a landmark achievement for women’s rights in the country.
At the same time, there has been a continuous outcry on how the laws against dowry are being dishonestly misused by many. Therefore, on 27 July 2017, Supreme Court announced that under section 498A, an accused can not be arrested immediately, as was the case before. Now, Family Welfare Committees will discuss such cases before a First Information Report (FIR) is filed by the police.
The recent change in the law, has indeed worsened the situation of many women who are still affected by the perverse effects of dowry. Taking transformative steps towards creating a meaningful change, the SOBHA Limited CSR arm, Sri Kurumba Educational and Charitable Trust recently organised the 24th edition of dowry-less social wedding ceremony in Palakkad, Kerala. The ceremony was held at Sri Kurumba Kalyana Mandapam in Moolamcode, Palakkad.
The dowry-free social wedding is organised twice a year by Sobha Limited CSR and the Trust, with 17 girls tying the knot during the 2nd edition of the ceremony in 2019. The Trust bears the entire expense of the wedding. Till date, 647 girls have been married through this initiative.
During the dowry-free wedding ceremony, the Trust provides 4.5 gold sovereign ornaments, dresses and utensils to the couples to mark the beginning of a new life. The Trust also conducts pre-marriage counselling for the families of brides and bridegrooms. Additionally, it also monitors their married life at regular intervals and provides guidance, if needed.
Changing Mindsets About Dowry
“Our endeavour is to set the right precedent and help bring a change in the mindset of people. With this aim, the initiative of dowry-free weddings is organised each year. While helping build a better society to live in, the idea is to also continue empowering women with this initiative,” says J.C. Sharma, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, SOBHA Limited.