Sub: Latest Amendments to the Dowry Prohibition Act Encourage and Legalize Dowry
The Ministry of Women and Child Development is moving a cabinet note seeking amendment in the existing provisions of the Dowry Prohibition (DP) Act of 1961. The amendments are expected to be placed before the cabinet for its approval at the end of January 2010 and likely to be tabled in the Parliament in the coming budget session.
The amendments include:
1. Mandatory requirement for couples to notify the list of gifts exchanged during their wedding ceremony.
2. The list of gifts, in the form of a sworn affidavit, has to be notarized, signed by a protection officer or a dowry prohibition officer and kept by both the parties.
3. Failing to keep a list of gifts can invite heavy penalty including a three-year term in jail for not only the bride and the groom but also their parents.
4. The penalty for dowry givers is reduced from five years of imprisonment to one year.
5. The Domestic Violence Act will be linked with the DP Act for quick relief.
6. The definition of dowry is widened by changing the word “in connection with marriage” to “given before the marriage, at the time of marriage and at any time after the marriage.”
7. In case of a woman’s death, all property obtained as dowry would need to be reverted back to the parents of the woman or her children.
Sworn affidavit with a list of all gifts:
The new rule requiring a sworn affidavit accompanied by a list of gifts raises a lot of questions:
• What is the legal purpose of this list and who does it benefit?
• Does this sworn affidavit also serve as a declaration that no dowry or gifts were demanded by the husband and in-laws?
• In the absence of such a declaration, how are the husband and in-laws protected from false allegations of dowry demand and harassment?
• Who will ensure that this new rule is implemented given that the existing rules of the DP Act regarding dowry, gifts and marriage expenditure have not been implemented in the last 50 years?
• Who is responsible for making sure that everyone is aware of the consequences of disobeying the rule?
• Does ignorance of law work as an excuse to avoid punishment?
The most important question of all is this –
• Is the affidavit with a list of “gifts” not a way of legalizing dowry?
Expansion of the definition of dowry:
The term dowry has not been clearly defined in the DP Act, and the proposed amendments do not add any clarity to the definition either. Instead, they only raise more questions and apprehensions.
• How does one distinguish between dowry and gift?
• What is the extent/value of “gifts” one can give?
• When does a gift become dowry?
– Does it happen when the marriage breaks down?
– Does it happen when any gift is not listed in the affidavit?
– Does it happen when the worth of the gift exceeds a certain monetary value?
– Or is it at the discretion of the married woman and her family?
• When the present definition of dowry itself is so unclear, what is the use of expanding the definition to items given before, during and at any time after marriage?
• Should the parties file an affidavit at every instance gifts are exchanged at any time prior to, during and after marriage?
Property inherited, earnings and savings spent during or after marriage:
There is much talk about women being economically empowered and deserving equal rights to parental property. Given that it has become common practice for women to calculate and claim every penny or piece of wealth brought along or spent during the course of the marriage as “dowry”, the following questions arise:
• If property is inherited or purchased by a woman before marriage is it considered dowry?
• When an earning woman contributes towards wedding expenditure or gifts or towards the benefit of the matrimonial family after marriage, is it considered dowry?
If all the above are dowry, then
• Are women expected to spend everything they have and then marry?
• Are women expected to NOT contribute anything for the running of the matrimonial family?
Reduced punishment for dowry givers:
Since the introduction of DP Act in 1961, not a single person who admitted to giving dowry has been punished. Scores of persons alleged of taking or abetting the taking of dowry have been immediately arrested and tried for 5-10 years before being declared innocent.
• Is it not a mockery of the law to reduce punishment for givers, when no dowry giver has ever been punished?
• Does it not mean the Government is encouraging the giving of dowry?
• How can one take dowry if nobody gives dowry?
• Can anyone be threatened or coerced to give dowry AND marry against their will?
It is a well-known fact that most parents want to marry their daughters off to economically successful men and most women also want to marry a man who is better than them in everything. To achieve this end they indulge in lavish marriages, dowry and extravagant gifts, and when convenient, assume victimhood and accuse the husband and in-laws of “demanding” dowry.
In thousands of cases, young men and their families who take pride in opposing dowry or expensive weddings, eventually end up being booked under the anti-dowry laws when marital disputes crop up, and the bride and her family misuse the law to take revenge or extort money.
Shouldn’t the punishment for giving dowry be increased rather than reduced if the practice of dowry should be eradicated and misuse of the law prevented?
Dowry death and reverting back property, dowry and presents:
Feminists would have you believe that every unnatural or untimely death of a married Indian woman is dowry death. Not only that, the feminist hyperbole on “bride killing” and “dowry harassment” makes it look like Indian men have an uncanny propensity to commit violence on their wives for money, while men in other countries commit domestic violence for other reasons.
In reality, it is the number of registered suicides of married women which are passed off as statistics of dowry death, and even these numbers are almost always exaggerated. It has become a custom to claim that all the women have been “driven to suicide” due to dowry harassment.
It is important to note that women think about the past, present, and future earnings and savings (actual and potential) of a man before they marry. Wives routinely abuse husbands for money. More than 56,000 married Indian men end their lives every year, and a majority of them because of economic abuse. According to statistics obtained from the National Crime Records Bureau, every year, twice as many married men, compared to women, commit suicides and the deaths of these men are written off as “suicides due to financial or family problems”.
When a husband is killed due to economic abuse by his wife, the “hapless” surviving wife is legally entitled to claim his property and wealth, whereas, if a wife dies, no matter what the circumstances may be, the husband is not only accused of dowry death and punished through media slander and long-drawn court trials, but he has to also return all the wealth or property of the wife to her children or her parents.
Linking the Domestic Violence Act with DP Act for quick relief:
While logic would suggest that a woman complaining of domestic abuse should be protected by removing her from the offender(s) and the offender(s) should be punished, the Domestic Violence (DV) Act provides relief to the complainant wife in the form of monetary compensation and residence rights in home of the alleged “offender(s)”.
• Does this not amount to encouraging women to get abused and beaten for money and residence rights?
• Does it not tempt women to make false allegations of abuse to claim monetary and residential benefits?
• Put another way, does it not seem to encourage husbands to commit domestic abuse and pay up to be let off the hook – in essence, the richer you are the more the unsaid “post-paid abusing privileges”?
In addition to the above, there are several other flaws with the DV Act and it is with such an ill-conceived law that another meaningless law, the DP Act, is proposed to be linked!
Government controlling giving presents:
Giving gifts is common practice at birthdays, anniversaries, farewell parties and many other occasions, and a wedding is just one of them. The Government has no right to infringe upon the rights of individuals to give presents or gifts. It cannot dictate what, when, why and to whom gifts can or cannot be given.
Having said that, for reasons only known to the lawmakers, the DP Act was introduced 50 years ago restricting the giving and taking of “dowry/presents/gifts”. Nevertheless, politicians, lawmakers, feminists, lawyers, judges, police, IAS officers and almost everyone who claim a moral high ground over common people, exchange dowry and expensive gifts and have lavish weddings.
How can such hypocrites be allowed to legislate and enforce laws like the DP Act over the common citizens of India?
The Government and women’s rights activists do not care about eradicating dowry:
The original DP Act of 1961 itself legalizes the illegal – After declaring that giving or taking of dowry is illegal, the Act adds ridiculous riders on the “return of dowry”. Through the new amendment, the Government seems to be inclined to further facilitate the so-called “evil practice”.
Madhu Kishwar, a renowned women’s rights activist, took an oath herself and invited all women’s rights activists to boycott all weddings which involve dowry or extravagant expenditure. How many weddings have any of you or anyone you know boycotted because dowry or too much expenditure was involved?
Madhu Kishwar was right when she said “feminism in India lacks integrity”. Feminists claim that 8,000 dowry deaths take place every year. They have spread the message that Indian families burn their brides for dowry as a routine practice, and it is the single most important problem that deserves International attention and funding. A fact unknown to many is that 78,000 pregnancy related deaths of women occur every year due to poverty and inability to afford proper health facilities. Are the poor women dying in the streets not a problem big enough to worry about compared to creating false statistics of dowry deaths and creating paranoia?
If the existing DP Act of 1961 is strictly implemented and if all dowry givers and those indulging in extravagant marriages are punished, the so called “dowry problem” will vanish in no time. However, this will never happen due to the many disincentives it would create in the global “Domestic Violence Industry”, the most important one being that the flow of International funding for “eliminating dowry” will cease. Not only that, the 50,000 crore market of “big fat weddings” will come to an abrupt end and hurt corporate entities and businesses, which in turn will affect politicians who control and are controlled by them. Lawyers, judges, police and anyone who thrive on the DV Industry will suffer.
The present system of ineffective anti-dowry laws works well for the Government and all the players in the “DV Industry” as it serves to project women as perpetual victims and men as habitual aggressors and to make more and more anti-male, anti-family laws and policies to woo the women vote bank.
The question before the media and all citizens is “When are WE going to realize we are being fooled, and say NO to laws like the DP Act, which have so many inherent flaws that their honest implementation will never be possible?”
In the event that the proposed amendments to the DP Act are passed, AIFWA, SIFF and APMPA would like to issue a word of caution to all men intending to get married and urge them to insist on prenuptial agreements to protect themselves from false cases when a marriage turns sour or breaks down.