Apr 24, 2011

Daughters for Sale

Indian Weddings are big, boisterous and shit expensive.
I've seen a lot of weddings in my lifetime. Most of them have been extravagant affairs mainly to flex the money muscle and to announce to the world (or to their relatives and friends) that they've arrived.

The copious amounts of money that is spent on mantaps and jewelry would make King Solomon blush.
All this of course does not include the obscene amounts of dowry that is given.

Ofcourse, any one could justify why we'd still want dowry, an integral part of our weddings, but when I read about mysterious 'kitchen cylinder blasts' that kills or scars a new bride, or when a new bride is burned, is when I wonder why we won't raise our voices against the system.
Perhaps we are just not ready to fight a system that risks making our daughters ineligible for marriage.

Where did the tradition of a little 'seed money' go so wrong?
Dowry, money that was supposed to help our young husbands start their lives has become a vicious circle of greed, death and guilt.

Young people that I've spoken to, have agreed that dowry is a tradition that they will not indulge in. But many of them yield to the 'wisdom' of their elders who espouse dowry and are brainwashed to believe that a suitably sized dowry will give the girl and her family respect in the eyes of the boy's family and his relatives.

Vast amounts of money or assets are passed hands. For many in suburban India, societal expectation on what would constitute a suitable sized dowry would differ.
But for the girl's parents and family, this could mean money that was saved for many many years. Money that was kept aside for a home. Money that was kept aside for the aging parents.
But for the boy and his family, this is easy money. Money that he hardly worked for. Money that he would be secretly drooling for. Publicly he would be against dowry, privately a staunch supporter for dowry.

Having proven its mettle, Media must play a more strategic role in promoting anti dowry. Simple awareness about the consequences of accepting or even offering dowry should be taught at schools.
However, having said that, legislation is a double edged sword. Unscrupulous women and their families have used anti dowry laws to their advantage. In a society where marriages are planned and verbally binding decisions made in the drawing rooms of elders, unwitting men fall for the trap of women and their families who want to teach the men a bitter lesson in matrimony.

Personally, I know a dear friend who was fighting a bitter divorce that ought to have been over nearly 12 years ago. Just a written complaint from the ex and her family and the poor chap was suffering for over a decade until last year at the age of 35, he died.

Greed begets greed and dowry is something you wouldn't want to touch with a barge pole.

Are we breeding our daughters with a dread that we will have to pay, some day, a million bucks?
Are we raising our sons with the hidden delight and relief that some day, all our 'investments' will be repaid when he gets married and get a Big Fat Dowry?
Maybe it is because we have more men than women. Or maybe we need to stop female infanticide.

Fight the right to marry your soul-mate, sans the money. Of course marriages are never a piece of cake and you'll always end up stretching to make ends meet. But you'll atleast set an example when you refuse to accept or pay a dowry. Be a Man.

The question is: Are we ready to fight for the right to wed without dowry?

The Statistics are chilling.
Go Figure.
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