Introduction: Dowry is one of the most important social problems of Bangladesh. It is a social concern. The majority of the population is a victim of dowry. It may be identified as a major reason for rural poverty and landlessness. Dowry is a continuous process and even does not guarantee the continuation of marriage. Besides economic pressure, it has a physical impact on the social body. Non-payment of dowry deads to oppression on women sometimes causing the life. The payment of dowry is both in-kind and cash. Gradually it tends to cash.
Concept of dowry: The word ‘dowry’ has been used and misused by many writers in various ways. It has sometimes been used in the sense of bride price or mohr. In the Holy Quran it is stated for the believers, ‘And give the women their dowries as a free gift spontaneous, but if they are pleased to offer you any of it consumes it with wholesome appetite’. Here, the usage of dowry is different from the way we understand it. In the context of the Indian sub-continent, some sociologists maintain that the recent dowry phenomenon in the sub-continent is qualitatively different from the traditional idea of the same. Nowadays, dowry is considered as the amount of money or other gifts paid to the bridegroom for accepting the bride as his wife. In Bengali, dowry has the synonym ‘Joutuk’.
Reasons for payment of dowry: There are number of reasons for payment of dowry. People generally consider dowry payment as a social custom. The parents who pay dowry believe that as social beings, they have to abide by the customs of the society. At the same time, it is also admitted that without dowry it would have been difficult for parents to arrange a desirable groom for their daughters. Even, some people seem that daughters would never have been married if they could not arrange dowry for them. In some cases, people give dowry for their own personal wish though no demand is there from the grooms’ side.
Impact of dowry: In most cases, the payment of dowry makes severe economic crisis for the families of the brides, for the payment of dowry, several families are to sell out their land and other household items. Even after that some parents are not yet sure what would happen to the fate of their daughter. In some instances, even after payment of dowry as was agreed upon by both sides, fresh demand of dowry from the groom’s side is not uncommon.
After all, it is social crime and it has a cancerous effect on society. At almost all cases, dowry degenerates more oppression against women and adds more injustice and inequality to our social life. It sometimes makes our familial life more unsafe and flamboyant. More particularly, the fresh demand for dowry after marriage creates troubles in the conjugal life of the spouse. Even it may cause death to any of the, especially to the brides. Besides, dowry is against religious codes. Particularly, Islam has prohibited the acceptance of dowry rather there is the system of mohr where the bride is to be given a certain amount after marriage.
Struggle against dowry in Bangladesh: Way back in 1854, a play entailed ‘Kulin Kul Sarbaswa’ sparked social awareness regarding the dowry issue. It was an indictment against the dowry system. The movement against dowry has not stopped since then. The great writers of the region, from Rabindranath Tagore, Sharatchandra, and Kazi Nazrul Islam down to the contemporary writers have written strongly against dowry. In 1904, Begum Rokeya Shakhawat Hossain the proponent of women’s education in the sub-continent harshly condemned men who demanded dowry from their fathers-in-laws. Poet Sufia Kamal, Advocate Aminul Islam, Mr. Mohaymen and others all contributed significantly to the anti-dowry movement of the seventies. The anti-dowry act was promulgated in 1980.
Recommendations: As dowry is a social crime and it has a deep root in society, it would be very difficult to eliminate it fully. However, the following measures deem to be fruitful in getting out of the clutch of dowry:
1. As laws are not enough against dowry-related crimes, legal reforms are essential.
2. The conscious quarters must take steps to prevent dowry and the unhealthy competition to give gifts at the girl’s wedding must stop. 3. Women’s organizations must work at the grassroots level on this issue. They should try to make people understand that women are humans, not items of the bargain. For this area were networks must be built up at the village level.
4. Since men are the ones who oppress women, it is men who must initiate a stoppage of dowry.
5. All progressive forces, not just women’s organizations alone, must attempt to bring about equality between the sexes. General inequality is a major cause of dowry. Improving women’s position in society would be an effective measure against dowry.
6. The over extravagant expenses for wedding and marriage related functions must be curtailed as the bridegrooms of the take dowry so as to meet these costs. The role models of society themselves should ensure that the wedding in their family are inexpensive and devoid of extravagance so that others follow their example,
7. There is a tendency for the girl and girl’s family to simply tolerate the oppression rather than risk the marriage breaking up. The families must not fear social shame, but boldly take action and protest against dowry-related oppression. They must resort to legal action rather than encourage the girl to ‘bear the oppression for the sake of respectability.
8. A women must take an established place in society, a place of respect. Social values must be molded in this regard.
9. Our political parties must have specific programs against dowry and women’s oppression and work for the implementation of these programs.
We must continue our struggle to end the curse of dowry. The issue of dowry and oppression of women must be considered in view of the country’s socio-economic, cultural, political, legal, state, and overall structure and circumstances. United efforts are needed to put an end to violence against women. A specific framework must be drawn up to be implemented. The dowry would not come to end in a day, but we are certain that it will end. Correct action will ensure that.