Thursday, November 03, 2011

Dowry

It all started with a simple question. A simple question that was meant to kill time during a presentation which I was severely under prepared for.

I had to present on dowry laws in India. 20 minutes later, I asked the class comprising of 15 boys and 3 girls, would you ask for dowry. Silence.

Okay. "Would you accept it if it was given willingly?"

Most guys said they would.

This wasn't as disturbing as what was to come next. I asked the girls if they would walk out if the guy asked for dowry at the last moment. Only 1 of the 3 said that she would walk away. The other two would actually through the wedding. These are smart women doing that PG and no less than criminology and yet, they would adhere to a social norm so devious.

It is disturbing to think that people actually have to put thought into whether they would accept/give dowry. Why? Why do men think they are so incompetent to support themselves and their families on their own merit? Why do women associate their worth on the money that they are given in a day and age where women work, earn and fend for themselves?

This is probably because (as my prof pointed out) we leave most of the decisions pertaining to marriage to the parents. We accept our families to accumulate wealth for us and hand it down once they are gone. We live in a society where we decide our worth on money earned for us by someone else. WHY?

Imagine a marriage that begins on demands, rather it is based on it. Where does it end? First it is a car, then a flat, then a bigger car, this much gold, this and that. When does it stop?

In conversations about this on twitter, two important points came up. Pooja tells me that a highly educated girl would need an equally or more qualified boy and hence, has to pay more dowry.

Somehow this goes against what I would have believed to be the reason for the custom of dowry to have begun. The other point that came up was made by Suraj who rightly says that it now just tickles down to the fact that people want to show off. It is just an excuse to show the world their spending capacity.

A marriage, a union of two people and in most cases, of two families that can be so special and precious is being sold in market like any other commodity. Pooja tells me they is actually a term called going rate used for grooms.

Well, the way things are going, the husband mall might not be that far away.

If you want to know more about dowry laws in India. Read this.

Thank you, Girish and Aditya for actually making me write this and not die like a rant's death on twitter.

4 comments:

Kaber Vasuki said...

I've heard of situations where the brides family insists on dowry even when the groom's family refuses it. I'm serious. Things will change when the number of love marriages exceeds the number of arranged marriages.

Mrudula Aaduru said...

There are boys, my classmates who have unabashedly claimed that they were doing a Post-Grad abroad only so that their "Dowry Worth" increases. An Under-grad dowry is supposedly worth 75 lakhs. A post-grad dowry is worth 1-2 crores, depending on the country and the university. Studying in USA would fetch you a higher dowry than a degree procured from the UK.
Dowry in such cases are voluntarily offered by the girl's parents as well. I think, it's to do more with ensuring that the girl is well taken care of in the in-law's place.

In a dowry transaction, it looks like either the girl's parents have bought the Groom or the groom is paid to take care of the daughter. The irony.

krist0ph3r said...

i agree that dowry is wrong on many levels, and my question may not be directly connected, i'd like to know what the law has to say about alimony. is there a gender bias or is it just about who's earning and who isn't?

Ruhie said...

Great write up. I completely agree with your point on that girls/ women need to accept this so called 'tradition' which clearly it isn't. Hopefully, boys will start to stand up against it, this whole system of carrying on wealth leads to stagnant, regressive thinking.