In 1961, the Government of India had passed the Dowry Prohibition Act, making dowry demands illegal. But it did not eradicate the menace. After many cases of dowry-related domestic violence, suicides and murders came to light in the 80s, there was a general outcry and the public began to call for stringent action.

In 1985, the Dowry Prohibition (maintenance of lists of presents to the bride and bridegroom) rules were framed. According to these rules, a signed list of presents given at the time of the marriage to the bride and the bridegroom should be maintained. The list will describe each present, its approximate value, the name of whoever has given the present and his/her relationship to the person. But the rules were rarely enforced. According to a 1997 report, at least 5,000 women die each year because of dowry deaths, and at least a dozen die each day in suspicious kitchen fires’. With more women becoming economically independent and aware of their rights, the dowry system has lost some of its teeth.

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Many women have begun rejecting men who demand dowry. Attitudes of men are also changing. Parents should first stop considering daughters as burdens to be offloaded on some man.

They should also not force their daughters to return to her marital home, when they know that certain death awaits her there. Guilty husbands and in-laws should be given the death penalty.


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