Bangladesh: The Dowry Prohibition Act of 2018
by Jeremy D. Morley
The Dowry Prohibition Act of 2018 (the "Act") of Bangladesh prohibits the giving or receiving of a dowry. The primary purpose of the Act is to end the custom whereby the bride's family makes a financial payment to the groom's family upon a marriage. The system is now seen to be a “social curse,” which frequently leads to disputes between the families and the harassment of innocent parties.
Section 3 of the Act criminalizes the act of directly or indirectly demanding a dowry, punishable by imprisonment of up to five years and/or a significant fine Section 4 of the Act makes it an offense to give or receive a dowry, or to abet such actions, which is likewise punishable by a fine or imprisonment. Section 2 provides that the parties who may be prosecuted for such actions may include the bride, the groom, their parents or legal guardians, “or any other person directly involved in the marriage” from the side of the bride or the groom.
The term “dowry” is defined as "money or any other asset" demanded by a party as the consideration for a marriage. However, it does not include a dower or mahr, in those cases in which the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) applies to the parties. Nor does it apply to wedding gifts.
Section 5 of the Act provides that any agreement for giving or taking of a dowry is void.
In an attempt to limit the number of false cases and harassment of an innocent party, Section 6 of the Act criminalizes filing a false complaint or causing a false complaint to be filed.
Finally, the offenses committed under the Act are “cognizable, non-bailable, and compoundable.” This means that, as a “cognizable” offense, the police may arrest the accused without a warrant; as a “non-bailable” offense an accused does not have an automatic right to be released on bail; and as a “compoundable” offense the parties are allowed to settle the issue outside of court.
It should also be noted that there are additional remedies available in Bangladesh for dowry-related violence, including the “Nari-O-Shishu-Nirjatan-Daman-Ain, 2000” law, which provides severe penalties for any dowry-related offense which causes hurt, grievous hurt or death, and the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, which defines "domestic violence" as any conduct which harasses, harms, injures, or endangers an aggrieved person, including any act done with a purpose to coerce an aggrieved person to meet any unlawful demand for a dowry.