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World Woman Stopped From Making Dowry Claim


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
A COUPLE who wed in an arranged marriage in India are in court over claims a dowry was demanded before the wedding.

The marriage was set up by their parents and took place in 2002 according to Sikh rites. The dowry issue arose during a property settlement after the couple, both Australian citizens, split up.

The woman, known by the pseudonym Ms Singh, said her parents paid her husband's family $25,000 in cash before the wedding. Her former husband, Mr Singh, denied the claims.

India's Dowry Prohibition Act, introduced in 1961, makes it illegal to request, give or receive a dowry. Facing the risk of jail if criminal proceedings are initiated in India, Mr Singh successfully applied for an injunction in the Federal Magistrates Court to prevent his ex-wife taking such action.

Affidavits supporting his denials outlined the Sikh marriage ceremony, including the giving of gifts to the bride and her family by guests, and stressed there was never a request for a dowry. His siblings were married in India according to the same customs and were "dowry-free". When the case came before the court in Canberra, Ms Singh - who contended that her husband's family had sought clothes and jewellery as well as the cash - said she had "a privilege to file a case against him in India''. She wanted the Australian proceedings dismissed, arguing that as the relevant events occurred in India, and the Dowry Prohibition Act was designed to deal with a "very specific social problem, which is virtually unknown to Australia", the Indian courts should resolve the matter.

A federal magistrate, Warwick Neville, found Ms Singh had not established the existence of the dowry, but said there was evidence to convince him Mr Singh required protection against the risk of jail if criminal proceedings were instituted in India.

He made orders restraining Ms Singh from taking action under Indian law alleging that a dowry was paid or demanded, or assisting anyone else to take action.

Devleena Ghosh, an associate professor and expert in Asian studies at the University of Technology, Sydney, said the dowry system began as a way of giving women a claim to their paternal family's inheritance. It was outlawed as it became a tool of extortion.




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