29 May 2021 gs-mains-paper-2 Current Affairs
Question : Despite a rapidly expanding middle class, economic growth and measurable strides in modernization since India’s independence, dowry deaths continue to rise year on year. Do you think that laws are not stringent enough to curb the victimisation of women?
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A-CUBE IAS Answer :
(GS Paper I & GS Paper II)
National Crime Record Bureau of India, as recently as 2017, recorded nearly 7000 dowry linked deaths a year. Dowry deaths rose from about 19 per day in 2001 to 21 per day in 2016 and these are just the reported dowry deaths. There are many that go unreported. Taking or giving dowry has been criminalized by law as early as 1961. But, it is still a significant part of Indian marriage and is openly defying laws and failing women empowerment.
Dowry prohibition Act 1961 has criminalized the practice of taking or giving dowry in India but this law has become outdated and not been able to produce the required deterrence. Problem is that after so many years of the modernization process that Indian society has witness demand for dowry has seen no reduction. Dowry demand is not restricted to some communities in India rather it has been observed in various field studies that dowry is in practice within the well-off communities and families too.
Outdated Law and Provisions
Dowry prohibition Act 1961 defines the term ‘Dowry’ very loosely and prescribes minimal punishment for violations. Apart from that poor public support for this law has made it redundant and inoperative in many ways. Section 6 of this act in some way provide a legal loophole for dowry to exist. Similarly, state governments have failed to appoint some powerful officials for the prohibition of dowry practice as required under section 8 of this act.
Apart from the outdated nature of the Dowry prohibition act, certain judicial guidelines that the Supreme Court has given made it hard for women to seek police action against culprit family members. In Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar (2014), the Court had held that arrest should not be made in a random way and for an offence under Section 498A IPC arrest is to be made only in exceptional circumstances, that too after recording special reasons in writing in accordance with Section 41(1) (b) of the Cr PC.
In order to deal with the practice of Dowry and associated deaths, multi-pronged steps are required, where all the social stakeholders can collaborate over the mechanism of how to prevent such incidents. Social evils like dowry cannot be eliminated just by enacting more stringent laws rather there is a need for social behavioural change in society. At the same time, various laws in India are gender biased and give male privilege over what a woman gets. Therefore, these laws need to be changed so that there exist total equality.
In recent years we have often come across the news where the bride has steadfastly stood against this practice of dowry and refused to walk-off from the marriage ceremony. Such kind of exemplary courage needs to be displayed from more and more prospective brides. The prevalent dogmas also need to be done away with. An attitudinal change in the mindset of the people which try to commodify women, dissemination of more and more modern perspective by the govt., and recent initiatives like doing away with words like ‘Kanyadaan’ and substituting with ‘Kanyamaan’, appeal of the chief Justice of India to women to ask for 50% of reservation in judiciary will certainly go a long way to eradicate this evil practice.
It's true to some extent that laws made under the dowry prohibition act have not been stringent enough to create deterrence in society and curb the victimisation of women. But only the stringent nature of law won't suffice, this dowry law needs support from the public, CSO and other social institutions for effective execution.