Report No. 91
4.8. Recommendation regarding definition of dowry for the purpose the present recommendations.-
This brings us to the definition of "dowry" that may be needed for the purpose of the various recommendations made in this Report. It appears to be necessary to include a definition of "dowry" framed after specifically keeping in mind the objectives of the above recommendations. The definition in the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 addresses itself to a somewhat different point of time. The emphasis therein is on contemporaneity or immediate connection with the event of marriage.1 To the tragic incidents with which this Report is concerned, what is more relevant is the relationship of marriage, the way in which married life is lived, a cluster of post-nuptial facts which bring untold unhappiness and misery to the women. The dowry prohibition Act, 1961 focuses itself mainly on the economic hardship and social ignominy caused by demanding dowry as a price for entering into the marriage.
Our recommendations, in contrast, are concerned with the physical agony and ignominy caused directly to the woman in leading her life in the husband's family. This report is concerned with a state of affairs, a continuum, rather than with a demand made at a particular point of time. Greed for money may be common to both; scant respect for the woman as an individual entitled to maintain her human dignity may also be common to both; and yet, there is a shift on emphasis. The wife is now threatened (directly or indirectly) that her social status as a wife will be jeopardized if the demand is not met. This threat is addressed to the wife and it is she who is the visible victim. The threat ultimately culminates in the extinction of her life. For effectively covering these nuances of the situation, the definition of dowry in the Act of 1961 would not be sufficient. In any case, it would be unrealistic in the present context.
1. See also para. 4.5, supra.