Women harassed for dowry may soon be able to seek redressal at any time during their marriage. The Centre is considering removing the existing limit of seven years after the wedding for registration of cases under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
At present, the Act is applicable only when a woman dies in mysterious circumstances within the first seven years of her marriage. Under the act the accused has to prove himself innocent, instead of the prosecution proving him guilty. A wife’s suspicious death after seven-years is enquired into, not under the Dowry Act, but under the relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), where the prosecution needs to establish guilt.
This is among a number of amendments to the act suggested by the National Commission for Women (NCW). NCW Chairperson Girija Vyas told the Hindustan Times that all women should be treated equally irrespective of the number of years they had been married. “We have come across cases of dowry harassment of women married for 25-30 years,” she said.
The NCW has also proposed that the victim or her family should have the right to claim the gifts received during the wedding, in addition to the existing provision of seeking stridhan (gifts given by the bride’s parents). “A list of the gifts received in the marriage will be prepared and vetted by the service or protection officers to be appointed as per the proposal,” said a NCW official.
The proposed amendments by the NCW also include deterrents against offering dowry. “We don’t want to punish the parents, but have proposed provisions for deterrence,” Vyas said.