Dowry system in India

Dowry system in India

In India dowry (known as Dahej in Hindi)[1] is the payment in cash or some kind of gifts given to bridegroom's family along with the bride. Generally they include cash, jewellery,[2] electrical appliances, furniture, bedding, crockery, utensils and other household items that help the newly-wed set up her home.

In India the dowry system has been putting great financial burden[3] on the daughters family. It has been one of the reasons for families and women in India resorting to sex selection [4] favoring to have a son.[5] This has distorted the sex ratio of the India (933 females per thousand males [6])and have given rise to female foeticide.[7] The payment of a dowry has been prohibited under The 1961 Dowry Prohibition Act in Indian civil law and subsequently by Sections 304B and 498a of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).



Dowry originated in the upper caste families as an insurance to the bride to take care of herself and her children during crisis. The rich and rajas (kings) used to gift land as dowry. Mumbai was presented as part of the dowry when Princess Catherine de Braganza of Portugal was married to King Charles II in 1661.[8] The dowry has been considered as 'Stridhan' where 'stri' means women and 'dhan' means 'wealth'.

Domestic Violence

Anti-dowry poster in Bangalore, India

In 2001 nearly 7,000 dowry deaths[9] were registered in India over inadequate dowry, apart from other mental trauma cases.[10] Bride burning,[11] inducing suicides, physical and mental torture by their husband or in-laws is sometimes found to be done if the bride fails to bring sufficient dowry . There are laws like Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 that help to reduce domestic violence and to protect women's rights.


Dowry became prohibited by law in 1961.[12] IPC Section 406, IPC Section 304B and IPC Section 498A are sections in Indian law which relate to dowry. Despite the anti-dowry law in India, it is still widely and illegally practiced across the country.[13]

False dowry allegations

Many times the dowry law (article 498a) have been misused[14] by women to lodge false or exaggerated complaints against husbands and entire extended family accusing them of cruel behavior. As per the data only 2% of the cases registered for dowry demand have been able to convict the groom or grooms family. This had raised questions about the alleged misuse of the dowry laws in India.


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