After over a year of deliberations, the women and child development ministry last week finalised the proposed amendments to the dowry act, which seeks to ensure dowry-takers go to jail for seven years.
Those who give dowry, however, will face a lighter punishment — anything between six months and a year in jail.
Currently, both offences are punishable with up to five years in prison under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
“We will soon move the cabinet to get the amendments approved,” said an official.
According to the latest figures, in 2011, 8,618 dowry deaths were reported, while 6,619 cases were registered under the dowry act.
The ministry has also proposed that it will be mandatory for the bride and the groom to maintain a list of all gifts worth over R5,000, and get them registered with the dowry prohibition officer.
Failure to do so can invite a maximum jail term of one year. This penalty can only be waived by the court.
"The registration of gifts will help the woman have a legal right to seek compensation for all the gifts given, in case the marriage fails," said an official.
The definition of dowry has also been expanded to include any demand for property or valuable security before, during or after marriage leading to harassment, harm or injury to the woman or the property involved.
In the existing act, dowry is merely defined as property or gifts given directly or indirectly "at, before or any time after marriage".
The anti-dowry law is effective seven years from the date of marriage.