January 22, 2024 In Legal Support

Divorce and Dowry

The rate of divorce in Bangladesh is rising tremendously, and this is largely because divorce has become more accepted in society than it once was when women used to suffer various forms of abuse and endure suffocating marriages out of fear of what other people would think and the patriarchal standards of this society. Women used to endeavor to mend up a broken marriage regardless of how much their rights were violated, thinking about their children and what this dreadful society would think of it. One should always try to fix a problem and work it out, especially when it comes to marriage since it is a sacred bond, but there should come a time when one realizes they have reached their breaking point and that no matter how hard they try, the issue cannot be resolved, even in a conjugal relationship. Nevertheless, now that women are more aware of their rights and the societal perception is gradually changing, women, though not all, no longer fears a divorce when it is the ultimate resort. However, although society is adapting to new changes, it still remains patriarchal; women still face severe difficulties, particularly when they are divorced.

Women who divorce suffer immensely and face persecution from society. They also experience a range of difficulties during their second marriage unlike men whose serenity are not disrupted at all nor are they questioned by this brutal society. When women, after enduring all kinds of evil, societal pressures and discrimination try to start over, their characters are assassinated by the society but the men who tortured them to the extent to make them take this hard decision are barely the culprit in the eyes of this patriarchal society. This also causes many of these women to lose their mental equilibrium and go into depression. Women are still held responsible for divorce in our society. The National Women Council has determined that there are four causes of divorce among women, which includes dowry, unlawful extramarital affairs, psychological distress and physical violence.

Dowry is one of the most common grounds for divorce in Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, dowry refers to a practice of pre-wedding payments for marriage that are made either publicly or covertly by the bride’s family. The provision of dowry during marriage is a custom that emerged in society mostly in the 1970s. This societal ill has spread over time and is now a severe threat to married women’s lives. Although the system runs mostly in rural areas, it is not limited to them only. The root causes of this practice are frequently linked to the status of women in society, who are viewed as helpless, unproductive, and illiterate. If the bride’s family declines to pay the dowry, the woman is allegedly doomed to remain unmarried forever.

Furthermore, the woman’s husband and in-laws do not treat her well if such payment is not made. It becomes so much challenging for parents who comes from the lower working-class people to pay such large sums in excess of the cost of the wedding; even so, parents still pay such dowry amount willingly or by pressure considering their daughter’s security and welfare no matter how much distress it causes to their family as a whole. Often, even after paying the dowry prior to marriage, women are nevertheless subjected to physical or psychological abuse for future dowry payments. In-laws put a lot of pressure on women to make such hefty payments, and the outcome for the woman in that household hinges on those payments.

There exist legislations like the Dowry Prohibition Act, 2018, which was passed by the government in response to the problem, repealing the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1980. It not only makes taking dowry illegal, but also giving it. As per Section 3 of the Act, obtaining a dowry directly or indirectly is a crime that is subject to a maximum five-year prison sentence and/or a large fine. Giving or receiving a dowry, as well as aiding in such behaviour, is against the law and is punishable by a fine or imprisonment according to Section 4 of the Act. Nonetheless, dowry continues to be a normal practice in Bangladesh. Dowry is a societal custom that certain selfish, greedy people still practice today, which should be eradicated from modern society both in theory and in practice. The laws must be correctly implemented and applied, and offenders must receive just and fair punishment. In addition to that, it is vital to increase awareness of women’s rights, notably in rural areas. Some people are not even aware that they are not subject to such hideous traditions and that dowry is illegal in the nation and is thus prohibited. Raising people’s understanding of their rights and speaking up against such crimes are just as crucial as punishing the offenders, and only then can this practice be eliminated from its core.

Barrister Sabrina Zarin

Senior Partner, Equity LLP

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