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Despite the many historical and anthropological studies about dowry, to the best of my knowledge this is the first analysis of its disappearance. My hypothesis at a general level is that the institution of dowry was among the many fetters to the development of capitalism, such as entail, monopolies, and the privileges of the nobility, of churchmen, and of army officers, that disappeared as the influence of industrial capital spread worldwide. Yet entail, monopolies, and privileges were abolished legally, whereas the dowry was not abolished legally, it disappeared in practice.


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Thus the question remains: what led individual families to change their customs regarding dowry? And they changed remarkably. How to explain this transformation in customs? I will argue throughout this book that the practice of dowry altered because of changes in society, the family, and marriage.

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Since dowry is a transfer of property between family members, changes in the concept of property, in the way property is acquired and held, or in business practices are relevant to an understanding of change in the institution of dowry, as are changes in the function of the family in society, the way it is integrated into production, and how it supports its members. The changes experienced by Brazilian society that help explain the decline and disappearance of the dowry are many of the same transformations that have been observed in more central regions of the Western world.

A society divided vertically into family clans changed gradually into a society divided horizontally into classes. Between the seventeenth and the late nineteenth centuries, a new concept of private property developed. The underbelly of the dowry system revolves around the treatment of brides.


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The National Crime Records Bureau reports that in alone, there were 8, dowry-related deaths in the country, representing a 0. Only a third of all reported cases result in conviction of the offenders. Another flow on effect of the dowry system has been the practice of female infanticide and feticide. The birth of a daughter can be a cause of great concern for families, particularly those from poorer demographics, as they must then start to figure out how they will pay a dowry when it comes time for the daughter to marry.

What Is a Wedding Dowry?

It is alleged that this concern leads partially to female infanticide and feticide in India, though exact figures relating to this are difficult to determine. According to census data, in the age group years, there are girls to every boys in India. The blowout of the dowry system forced the government to take action in the middle of last century, introducing the Anti-Dowry Act in which outlawed the giving and receiving of dowries.

Double Dowry

After its introduction, the act received little support and was not strongly enforced, leading to a rampant and thriving illegal market for dowries. Among other initiatives, the government established an all-female police taskforce in , set up with the sole purpose of investigating dowry dispute-related abuse or deaths.

There are now more than of these police taskforces across the country. There is a call on young people not to tolerate dowry giving and receiving practices when getting married.

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