India government to review anti-dowry act due to increased complaints
India government to review anti-dowry act due to increased complaints

[JURIST] The India Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) [official website] announced Thursday that it will review the country's controversial anti-dowry [BBC backgrounder] act because increasing numbers of Indian women have issued complaints about misuse. WCD Joint Secretary Kiran Chadha said [Times of India report]:

We will be meeting a panel of lawyers and legal experts to review the law. We have been receiving so many complaints against the two laws — section 498A (harassment for dowry) and the domestic violence act.

Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code [large PDF] provides in relevant part:

Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

Despite legislation controlling the cultural and religious practice, India's dowry system continues illegally, leaving many women subject to abuse without enforcement of legal protections from so-called "dowry deaths" [backgrounder]. The Centre for Social Research (CSR) [advocacy website], an Indian women's advocacy group, announced on Wednesday that results of its recent study [IANS report] indicate that it is inheritance and property laws, and not the dowry custom, which is the primary cause of female infanticide in India.

In March, the Supreme Court of India [official website] concluded [Times of India report] in a controversial decision that demand for money and presents from parents of a married girl at ceremonial times should not be categorized as 'dowry' under the penal code. The court held that although the 1961 Dowry Prohibition Act [text] defines 'dowry' as money or presents given before, during, or after the marriage ceremony, payments given at other ceremonial times such as the birth of a child should not be included in the definition. The Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] has also deplored the dowry custom [JURIST report] as a 'social evil.'