The practice of dowry has long been culturally entrenched, and its harmful side is particularly visible in rural areas.
Originally meant to provide financial security for the newlyweds, the practice has taken a dark turn, and has become the source of much abuse and vioMlence directed at women.
The cabinet’s approval of the draft of the new anti-dowry law is a welcome legislation, with a provision to imprison those found guilty of inflicting harm, which may include physical abuse, or emotional abuse leading to suicide.
This is a change from the current anti-dowry law, enacted in 1980, which punishes the demanding of dowry, but does not recognise the subsequent abuse that comes in relation to dowry demands.
However, implementation is key. In spite of the existence of numerous laws, Bangladesh time and again has failed to protect women from violence and harassment, whether within the household, or out on the street.
Exemplary punishment for violators would send a clear message -- particularly in rural areas -- that it is certainly not OK to engage in spousal abuse, whatever the provocation may be.
Even in this day and age, women are being beaten, tortured, burnt alive, or driven to suicide for dowry demands, and all too often, the men involved are getting away with impunity, and are being emboldened to do it again.
The culture of dowry conflates women with property, and fosters a sexist mindset that is holding back our social, cultural, and economic development.
The new dowry law is the kind of progressive legislation we expect from the government, and while it is not always easy to implement, it is certaintly a step in the right direction.
It is heartening to see the government take a more enlightened approach.