Dowry payments still largely taking place in India: Study
The concept of dowry has been an old tradition that is now slowly going into the shadows and is dealt with as a ‘hush’ payment from the bride’s side.
Although it has been illegal in India since 1961, a study has revealed that dowry is being paid regularly even now and nearly 95 per cent of weddings have had an exchange of dowry even in these modern times.
Dowry is rightly portrayed to be a social evil as it is a practice of paying and accepting objects of value (such as clothes, jewellery, furniture, cash and more) between the two families. Usually, it is the bride’s family who has to pay these objects to the groom's family.
The study was conducted by the World Bank who looked at nearly 40,000 marriages that happened between 1960 and 2008 in 17 Indian states that comprise 96 per cent of the country’s population.
Experts calculated "net dowry" to study the gap between what was paid by the bride’s family to the groom’s and vice-versa, and the results showed that in the majority of the cases it was the bride’s family who had paid more – in cash and kind – to the groom’s family, rather than the opposite.
As per the calculated amount that was admitted by families, on average a groom’s family spends $67 (INR 5,000) on gifts to the bride’s family. However, the bride’s family spends nearly $429 (INR 32,000) for gifts and other monetary payments to the groom’s family, thus making the net dowry nearly $361 (INR 27,000).
It has also been observed that in general the dowry amount is usually 14 per cent of the annual household income and is also made up of a substantial amount from the family’s savings.
"As a share of income, dowry has gone down over time because on average rural incomes have risen in India," said Dr Anukriti, an economist at the World Bank Research Group. "But this is just an average claim - to calculate how large dowry is relative to household income for each household, we will need data on household income or expenditure, but unfortunately we don't have such data available," she said.
While a lot of the thought process has changed since 2008, researchers believe the trend of dowry is still very prevalent in India as the idea is very common in all major religious groups too, with Christians and Sikhs showing a "striking increase in dowry".
Some states such as Kerala, Haryana, Punjab and Gujarat saw inflation in dowry, with Kerala registering the highest average dowry in recent years. On the other hand, states such as Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and West Bengal saw a decrease in average dowry.
"We don't have definitive answers about these differences. We hope to explore this question in future research," Dr Anukriti said.