Dowry is an ancient custom, and its existence may well predate records of it. Dowries have a long history in Europe, South Asia, Africa and other dowry prohibition act pdf of the world. A dowry establishes a type of conjugal fund, the nature of which may vary widely.
This fund may provide an element of financial security in widowhood or against a negligent husband, and may eventually go to provide for her children. Dowries may also go toward establishing a marital household, and therefore might include furnishings such as linens and furniture. Goody notes that the sexual division of labour varies in intensive plough agriculture and extensive shifting horticulture. In sparsely populated regions where shifting cultivation takes place, most of the work is done by women. These are the societies that give brideprice. In contrast, plough agriculture is associated with private property and marriage tends to be monogamous, to keep the property within the nuclear family. Close family are the preferred marriage partners so as to keep property within the group.
There is a scholarly debate on Goody’s theory. Sylvia Yanagisko argues, for example, that there are a number of societies including parts of Japan, Southern Italy, and China, that do not support Goody’s claim that dowry is a form of female inheritance of male property. She notes that Goody’s is an evolutionary model in which these historical variables may not be the decisive factors today. Susan Mann argues, in contrast, with examples where even in late Imperial China, dowry was a form of female inheritance. Goody’s overall thesis remained pertinent in North India, although it required modification to meet local circumstances. He points out that dowry in North India is only partially used as a bride’s conjugal fund, and that a large part goes directly to the groom’s joint family. This would initially seem to discount Goody’s model, except that in North India, the joint family is composed of the groom’s parents, his married brothers and unmarried sisters, and their third generation children.
But when the parents die, and the joint family partitions, this jointly held wealth was then divided among the married sons, such that ultimately, the bride’s dowry given to the joint family returned to her and her husband as their “conjugal fund. Schlegel and Eloul expanded on Goody’s model through further statistical analysis of the Ethnographic atlas. They argue that a major factor in determining the type of marriage transaction is the type of property controlled by the household. Bridewealth circulates property and women, and is typical of societies where property is limited.
Dowry concentrates property and is found in property owning classes or commercial or landed pastoral peoples. When families give dowry, they not only ensure their daughter’s economic security, they also “buy” the best possible husband for her, and son-in-law for themselves. Daughters did not normally inherit anything from their father’s estate. Instead, with marriage, they got a dowry from her parents, which was intended to offer as much lifetime security to the bride as her family could afford. In Babylonia, both bride price and dowry were practiced. However, bride price almost always became part of the dowry. In case of divorce without reason, a man was required to give his wife the dowry she brought as well as the bride price the husband gave.
The return of dowry could be disputed, if the divorce was for a reason allowed under Babylonian law. A wife’s dowry was administered by her husband as part of the family assets. The wife was entitled to her dowry at her husband’s death. If she died childless, her dowry reverted to her family, that is her father if he was alive, otherwise her brothers. If she had sons, they would share it equally. Her dowry being inheritable only by her own children, not by her husband’s children by other women.
A husband had certain property rights in his wife’s dowry. In addition, the wife might bring to the marriage property of her own, which was not included in the dowry and which was, as a result, hers alone. This would apply in cultures where a dowry was expected to be returned to the bride’s family if she died soon after marrying. The dowry was property transferred by the bride, or on her behalf by anyone else, to the groom or groom’s father, at their marriage. The dowry could include any form of property, given or promised at the time of marriage, but only what remained after deducting the debts. Not only the bride’s family, any person could donate his property as dowry for the woman. That dos is profectitia which was given by the father or father’s father of the bride.
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All other dos is adventitia. The bride’s family were expected to give a dowry when a girl married, and in proportion to their means. It was customary for the bride’s family and friends to pay promised dowries in installments over three years, and some Romans won great praise by delivering the dowry in one lump sum. The practice of dowry in South Asia is a controversial subject.
Some scholars believe dowry was practiced in antiquity, but some do not. India was insignificant, and daughters had inheritance rights, which by custom were exercised at the time of her marriage. Documentary evidence suggests that at the beginning of 20th century bride price, rather than dowry was the common custom, which often resulted in poor boys remaining unmarried. Bridewealth was restricted to the lower castes, who were not allowed to give dowry. He cites two studies from the early 20th century with data to suggest that this pattern of dowry in upper castes and bridewealth in lower castes has persisted through the first half of the 20th century. However, it is more likely that marriages involved both reciprocal gifts between the two families, claims Tambiah, so that insofar as the groom’s family gives the brideweath, it tends to be given back as the culturally validated dowry to the bride as part of her conjugal estate. Indian literature suggests dowry practices were not significant during the Vedic period.