The Indian (Sub-Cont) Crisis & Support Agency (ICSA) the first NGO for the Indian Subcontinent Communities has advocated against dowry in Australia since 2014; the practice of dowry can significantly contribute to abuse, violence and exploitation.
Dowry’s are associated with arranged marriage, which is the most common form of marriage around the world today. Arranged marriages treat the union as a practical arrangement (similar to a contract), where each party is expected to fulfil their part and obligation.
A fundamental part of the arrangement of marriage can be the agreement of a dowry to be paid. Cultures vary in terms of whether dowry is paid by the male or female side of the family. The Indian Subcontinent culture norm is for dowry to be paid by female’s family to the male’s family, however in Australia we observe that tradition playing in reverse. It is not termed dowry, however manifests in much the same way.
WHAT IS DOWRY?
Dowry is a payment in the form of goods, assets, or materials which have a financial or economical value in marriage. Dowry is paid by one party of a marriage to the other.
Dowry is not a gift; as it is separate and in addition to any other wedding gift; and forms a fundamental part of the agreement of marriage. Dowry can be recognised as it:
- is not a gift
- is the fulfilling (payment) of a communicated demand/expectation
- is a fundamental part of the marriage agreement for the marriage to proceed
ISN’T DOWRY A GIFT?
Dowry is not a gift as it is a two-sided transaction where there is a give and take obligation on both sides.
- Gifts are a one-way transaction; once given there is no return expectation. In contrast dowry is given to secure a good match, union and security and received to supply those aspects.
- Gifts are given willingly, where there is no obligation to gift, in contrast dowry is given due to an expectation (from the giver) or a openly communicated demand (from the receiver)
- Gifts do not exact a favour in return, where in dowry one expects security for one’s child in the marriage
- Gifts have no consequences either to the giver or a third party if not gifted. Failure to provide a dowry can result in shame or dishonour to either one or both families as well as the potential for domestic abuse to one of the married couple.
- Gifts are not a deal breaker in the arrangement or negotiation of marriage. Failure to provide a dowry can end a prospective match.
Strong arguments are put forward that a gift from the parents to their child is being misinterpreted and families are wrongly maligned for engaging in the practice. This is an incorrect assumption as there is nothing that prevents families from giving gifts at any time in any fashion.