Dowry is not a new word for a patriarchal society like ours. Dowry is a custom of giving out wealth such as gold, money, land, cattle, house, or vehicle to the man who marries your daughter.
This giving out becomes ‘dowry’ only when the parents of a wedding daughter must meet the demand of a groom in advance to make the deal of wedding. If any generous and capable parents voluntarily want to give out some wealth sending their daughter to in-law’s home, then that is instead a gift, not a dowry.
Dowry is intensely common in South Asian countries like Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, etc.
No doubt, marriage is a very pure and holy custom. It binds two persons and two families in a new relationship. But when dowry steps in, this sacred marriage tie might ruin women’s lives. Because of dowry, many women are compelled to live a sad, bad and unhappy marital life.
In ancient times, girls were not educated and independent. So they were given cash and other forms of wealth to help her settle down in her new family life easily. Unfortunately, it has become one of the hard-time cultures in our society.
Dowry has been stringently practiced in a Southern part of Nepal (Terai region) for ages, but it has spread all over Nepal. Many girls are losing their lives in the name of dowry.
In many cultures in South Asia, it is all essential and a primary factor to negotiate the marriage. It became necessary for the girl’s parents to give a demanding dowry whether they could afford it or not. Still, in many places, the married life of a girl depends upon what she could bring in from her maternal home. One’s worth and status in society are often measured by how much one spends on a daughter’s wedding.
It is tragic in today’s progressive world. Nepalese women have been victimized in various ways in the name of dowry for many years. Our daughters and sisters are physically and mentally tortured in the name of dowry. There is also the brutal act of burning women in the name of having less or no dowry. Dowry violence and deaths are occurring almost day by day. Some of them are exposed and most of them are hidden.
Generally, when we hear and talk about dowry, most of us don’t take it seriously because it is not new. For many years we have been taking it as custom and unknowingly, it is becoming a problem for many. Because of the various reasons like the greed on others’ property, lack of education and awareness, people could not dare to deny it. People who are financially well can easily afford it. They relate it to their daughters’ future and happily give property as of the demands. People who can’t afford it take debt to give out dowry at the cost of their fortune and may die before paying it off. They are compelled to do so because they are surrounded by so-called customs, rituals, social status, etc. They thought that if they did not follow the tradition, their social values and reputations would go down.
We have a strong constitution, many regulations and laws against the dowry system in the current scenario, but the implementation is weak. Despite that, we hear sad, bad, and horrible news of our daughters and sisters becoming dowry victims almost every day; nothing positive has been made to change this custom against humanity. Lack of women’s education, narrow-minded society, lack of social awareness, so-called social rules, regulations, norms, values and customs etc., are making the dowry system strong. Despite knowing it is wrong and against the law, we unknowingly make it broader. It is gradually becoming a social evil of our country Nepal.
It is also a truth that people are becoming educated, and social awareness has been widened, but it is also a bitter truth that our innocent daughters and sisters are compelled to lose their happy lives. A big surprise is that so-called educated people also have been a part of this.
We have many NGOs and INGOs these days working against the dowry system and spreading empowerment, knowledge and awareness. They are working for positive change in our society.
Nowadays, marriage is supposed to be a good chance of quickly making money by dowry without any hardship. The bridegroom’s side openly demands the dowry before arranging a wedding as it is their right. We also read news on newspapers and televisions that many girls are died because of insufficient dowry. This social evil is spoiling beautiful marital life. Many women are beaten and sometimes killed by their husbands and his family. No matter how qualified she is, the girl often needs dowry to be considered a potential bride.
All the educated girls and boys should avoid this system. The girls’ parents should educate their daughters properly, support them in developing their skills, and, most importantly, give them the education to fight against the wrong system. If the girls are educated and mentally strong, they can easily differentiate between right and wrong. At any cost, this system should be eradicated for a well-cultured and civilized society.
Public awareness should be raised through different means of communication to change people’s attitudes. Parents should be encouraged to invest money in girls’ education and promote their skills. The Dowry Prohibition Act should be implemented strictly, which helps reduce the dowry system all over Nepal. We should teach our daughters and sisters to fight against wrong deeds, activities and social discrimination.
We need to be serious today. Otherwise, this bad practice can never be eliminated. Legal provisions against the dowry system should be implemented strictly. Working for women’s empowerment and gender equality is necessary to eradicate this problem. Most importantly, we must understand that even a colossal dowry cannot ensure a happy life for their daughters if they are not educated or skilled.