Although the dowry system has been rendered illegal by the Indian government in 1961, the exploitative tradition continues to be practised across the country. In a new study published on the World Bank blogs, it was found that Sikhs and Christians constitute the highest dowry payers in India. It was also revealed that Kerala had the highest dowry inflation compared to other States.
The study titled, “The evolution of dowry in rural India: 1960-2008” was authored by a group of economists, namely, S. Anukriti, Nishith Prakash, Sungoh Kwon, and published on June 30 this year. The authors relied on the data provided by the 2006 Rural Economic and Demographic Survey (REDS), which found that dowry was paid in 95% of marriages between 1960 and 2008. The data was collected from 40,000 marriages in 17 states that roughly comprise about 96% of the population.
After crunching the data, the authors concluded that dowry was prevalent among adherents of all major religions in India. The study broke the long-held myth that the dowry system was limited only to the Hindu community. Despite the Hindu population comprising 89% of the original sample (40,000 marriages), it was found that the net dowry was the highest for the Sikh and Christian communities. Both these religious groups witnessed a drastic growth in net inflation in dowry payments. Interestingly, even the Muslim community surpasses the Hindu community in dowry payments around the years 2002-2003.
The State-wise data for dowry inflation put India’s most literate State under the scanner. The authors noted, “Kerala exhibits stark and persistent dowry inflation since the 1970s and has the highest average dowry in recent years. Other states with inflationary trends are Haryana, Punjab, and Gujarat. Given Kerala’s religious composition—26% Muslims, 18% Christians, and 55% Hindus—this trend is compatible with the differential trends by religion described earlier.”
The study also noted that the average net dowry has stabilised over the years, with a spike prior to 1975 and after 2000. It must be mentioned that the average net dowry is calculated by subtracting the value of gifts given to the groom by the bride’s family and the gifts given to the bride by the groom’s family. The researchers found that the value of gifts from the groom’s side was relatively smaller than that received by him. “While on average, a groom’s family spends about Rs. 5,000 (in real terms) on gifts to the bride’s family, gifts from the bride’s family cost seven times more, that is, about Rs. 32,000, implying an average real net dowry of Rs. 27,000,” the study concluded.