The three regional dowry prohibition officers ceased to exist after the Department of Women and Child Development was carved out of the Social Justice Department
The post of regional dowry prohibition officers is yet to be effectively replaced three years after it became defunct following the bifurcation of the Social Justice Department of Kerala.
The three regional dowry prohibition officers ceased to exist after the Department of Women and Child Development was carved out of the Social Justice Department.
The Law Department is still working on an amendment to the State Dowry Prohibition Rules, 2004, to notify the woman protection officer and the district woman and child development officer as inquiry officer and dowry prohibition officers respectively. Though a chief dowry prohibition officer functions at the State level in the Department of Women and Child Development, it is of little help without district-level officials to coordinate the activities at the grass-roots level.
A senior official with the department observed that the post of regional dowry prohibition officer was toothless even when it existed, a fact corroborated by a retired official who served in that capacity.
“The Central Dowry Prohibition Rules, 1985, called for the man and woman to keep a signed list of all gifts exchanged at the time of marriage. However, this didn’t happen in practice as insisting on such a list itself would have caused a discord at the very outset making the enforcement redundant. Also, the prohibition officers were required to keep an eye on lavish marriages, track the source of income and register cases, which again was not practical,” said Rajan. L, a retired official who had served as a regional prohibition officer for three years.
During his service, he had proposed to the Social Justice Department director to fix a ceiling on exchange of gifts during the marriage and taxing anything beyond it. “Making mandatory the submission of the list of gifts at the time of registration of marriage with local bodies will enable the government to check the evil practice to a great extent,” Mr. Rajan said.
Hardly any scope
Though the district women protection officers, who were originally supposed to replace dowry prohibition officers, continue to intervene on behalf of victims of domestic violence and extend legal assistance, there is hardly any scope for them to act in connection with dowry prohibition as of now.
A woman protection officer admitted that this was despite the fact that dowry factor was at the centre of several domestic violence cases.