“YOUTH AGAINST DOWRY” campaign is launched by us to eradicate dowry system which is the root of various social evils. Dowry is the closely interlinked to many crimes committed against women – female infanticide, domestic violence, neglect of the girl child, denial of educational and career opportunities to daughters, rape, extortion, homicide, and discrimination against women to name a few. Some these crimes can be directly traced to the inability of the bride’s family to meet the demands of the groom and his family.
As a first step of this campaign, we will try to reach marriage venues wherein we will hang banners/posters to encourage the pledge against dowry system in the heart of youth with conscience as witness
Laws against dowry
The first all-India legislative enactment relating to dowry to be put on the statute book was the The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 and this legislation came into force from July 1, 1961. It marked the beginning of a new legal framework of dowry harassment laws effectively prohibiting the demanding, giving and taking of dowry. Although providing dowry is illegal, it is still common in many parts of India for a husband to seek a dowry from the wife’s family and in some cases, this results in a form of extortion and violence against the wife. To further strengthen the anti-dowry law and to stop offences of cruelty by the husband or his relatives against the wife, new provisions were added to the Indian criminal law – section 498A to Indian Penal Code and section 198A to the Criminal Procedure Code in 1983. In 2005, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act was passed, which added an additional layer of protection from dowry harassment.
Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 consolidated the anti-dowry laws which had been passed on certain states. This legislation provides for a penalty in section 3 if any person gives, takes or abets giving or receiving of dowry. The punishment could be imprisonment for a term not less than 5 years and a fine not less than ₹15,000 or the value of the dowry received, whichever is higher. Dowry in the Act is defined as any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given in connection with the marriage. The penalty for giving or taking dowry is not applicable in case of presents which are given at the time of marriage without any demand having been made. Similarly, section 4 of the Act provides a the penalty for directly or indirectly demanding dowry and provides for a penalty involving a prison term of not less than 6 months and extendable up to two years along with a fine of 10,000. Dowry agreements are void ab initio and if any dowry is received by anyone other than the woman, it should be transferred to the woman. The burden of proving that an offense was not committed is on the persons charged and not on the victim or her family. Under its powers to frame rules for carrying out its objectives under the Act, the government of India has framed the Maintenance of Lists of Presents to the Bride and the Bridegroom Rules, 1985. There are also several state level amendments to the Dowry Prohibition Act.
Criminal statutes – Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and Evidence Act
The Indian criminal laws were comprehensively amended to include dowry as a punishable offence. Section 304B was added to the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (“IPC”), which made dowry death a specific offence punishable with a minimum sentence of imprisonment for 7 years and a maximum imprisonment for life. It provided that if the death of a woman is caused by burns or bodily injury or occurs in suspicious circumstances within 7 years of her marriage, and there’s evidence to show that before her death, she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or his relative regarding the demand for dowry, then the husband or the relative shall be deemed to have caused her death. Further, section 113B of the Evidence Act, 1872 (“Evidence Act”), creates an additional presumption of dowry death when it is shown that before her death, the woman had been subjected to cruelty on account of dowry demand. Section 304B IPC along with Section 113B of the Evidence Act have enabled the conviction of many who were not caught by the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. Section 113A of the Evidence Act provides a similar presumption of abetment of suicide (which is an offense under Section 306 IPC), in case of death of a married woman within a period of seven years of her marriage.
Additionally, the judiciary also includes a murder charge under Section 302 IPC as this allows courts to impose death penalty on perpetrators of the offence. Section 406 IPC, pertaining to offences for the criminal breach of trust, applies in cases of recovery of dowry as it is supposed to be for the benefit of the woman and her heirs.
Further, Section 498A IPC was specifically included in 1983 to protect women from cruelty and harassment. The constitutionality of Section 498A was challenged before the Supreme Court of India on grounds of abuse, on grounds that it gave arbitrary power to the police and the court. However, it was upheld in Sushil Kumar Sharma v. Union of India (2005). The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 provides that for the prosecution of offences under Section 498A IPC, the courts can only take cognizance only when it receives a report of the facts from the police or upon a complaint being made by the victim or her family.
Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
Main article: Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (“Domestic Violence Act”) was passed in order to provide a civil law remedy for the protection of women from domestic violence in India. The Domestic Violence Act encompasses all forms of physical, verbal, emotional, economic and sexual abuse and forms a subset of the anti-dowry laws to the extent it is one of the reasons for domestic violence. Section 3 of the Domestic Violence Act specifically incorporates all forms of harassment, injury and harms inflicted to coerce a woman to meet an unlawful demand for dowry. Some of the common remedies under the Domestic Violence Act include:
protection orders – prohibiting a person from committing domestic violence;
residence orders – dispossessing such person from a shared household;
custody orders – granting custody of a child; and
compensation orders – directing payment of compensation.
India is a party to several international human rights instruments which provide theoretical remedies to the dowry problems. These international conventions include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“UDHR”), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”), the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (“ICESCR”), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (“CEDAW”), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (“CRC”). CEDAW codifies the rights most relevant to the discussion of dowry-related violence: the rights of women. However, there are issues of non-intervention and cultural relativism which impede the use of international law to combat dowry deaths.