A friend shared a post on facebook about an appeal for justice from a brother. His sister was allegedly killed by her inlaws in want of more dowry. I poked around a bit to ensure it was not some spam. The guy’s profile seemed genuine and up until Jan 26th he seemed like an average Joe. I am not sure if the route that he has taken is the best route. But desperate situations call for desperate measures. I have been in relatively much less helpless situations and I wondered if things were completely out of my control whom would I direct my anger upon? So I do not want to debate if this helpless brother’s ways are right. I am sure he is doing the best he can to get justice for his departed sister. Few people suggested on one of his posts that if he is a good brother or a MAN he should avenge the death of his sister. I hope he shows restraint and stays away from all that is illegal.
When I was in high school, I remember discussing about the problem with a passion. During my college days and much later, it was quite clear. NO DOWRY. It was more in the lines of “who gives dowry these days anyway”. The ones who give should be punished. But when you are young and inexperienced things are so black and white.
If love marriage was the answer to dowry problem, I would have promoted it to every unmarried girl I met. Sadly, it is not. In love marriages too, we have money, gifts, and jewels being doled out lavishly.
Some of the reactions we get when we discuss dowry is very amazing. In one of the programs I was watching on TV, a group of women were staunchly denying that our country has a dowry problem. They were saying that it is a problem of the past and that dowry deaths are rare. The show’s host had to intervene at one point and ask if every woman in India leaves her maternal home with just her bridal clothes and does not pack with her anything else. Such denial is very common among the lucky few in India who did not have to “pay” dowry but probably gave “gifts” to their inlaws out of “love”, tradition, customs and so on. Lot of women think their parents are showing their love for them by giving them a lot of dowry. Some women ask their parents to pay more because they can flaunt all they got from their maternal home among their inlaws. Men see it as a complement and a great honour. Most women from communities that do not practice dowry, seem out of touch with reality. According to many of them, dowry deaths seem to be a mere fictional statistic. Sadly, most communities in India are now demanding dowry even though they traditionally did not have any such custom. Dowry seems like a virus.
Story of an average Indian woman:
Most women in India are emotional fools. Lot of women wait for their parents’ consent to marry the man of their choice. I know women who have waited eight to nine years to get their parents’ blessings and then proceeded to marry decent, loving men. Some go to the extent of avoiding to fall in love until they are married to the man of their parents’ choice. Is it right or wrong? I don’t know. It is a different debate. This is the current situation of most women and I don’t see it changing for another generation. My point is, it is difficult for most women to be stubborn about dowry and remain unmarried especially if they dreamt of having a family of their own someday. If an average Indian woman does not fall in love, is she willing to find a partner on her own? Is she willing to use any dating sites? Does she see it as being proactive about her life or snatching away the rights of her parents? Does she see finding a partner of her choice as a respectable thing to do? Are Indian women really independent in their thought process even if they are educated and financially independent? How many will choose to marry a man from their community only because their parents think it is the right thing to do? What about meeting the guy a few times before deciding? How many are willing to take responsibility and take charge of their lives? Are we willing to encourage our sisters or daughters to do it?
The arranged marriage market in India can be very mean to women. Men too. But, women have to pay and bear the insults. Men have to just bear the insults. I wouldn’t want anyone going through it though. There is a price tag for every so called ":flaw" in a woman's appearance and you go down to the bottom of the marriage market pyramid.
According to statistics, marriages in India are a multi-billion dollar industry. People seem to splurge their life savings on their daughters’ weddings. Do you know that Indian invitation cards have Swarovski crystals stuck on them these days? What is done with the cards after the wedding?
Abroad, from whatever little I know, most of the expenses are borne by the couple and not much by the parents. Yes, even there, people want wedding ceremonies right out of their dreams and movie sets. They do take a loan and it does affect their credit rating. But it is not demeaning to the bride. Broke but not hurt.
Here are some things I could think of to stop this menace so that we have no blood on our hands. Yes, every Indian is in some way responsible for all the dowry deaths, isn't it? Tell me if this is do-able:
- Encourage women to be independent and find their partners on their own, if they choose to get married. If they do not want to be married, let them be.
- Please don't call "dowry" Indian culture. Cultured people treat their women with respect.
- If you are not yet married, splurge a little less on your wedding day. I am sure every bride prefers a happy marriage than a beautiful wedding day.
- Do not show off about your wedding ceremonies and the expenses incurred. I know, me blogging about my wedding day was wrong. I am guilty of this and I am sorry, sorry, very sorry.
- Encourage your male relatives to say no to dowry. For men who grew up and living in cities, it is a lot easier than for men who grew up in rural, tight knit communities.
- Talk with men you know and let them know that it is a regressive and evil practice. Most men do know that actually. But broach up the topic and listen to what they have to say.
- If you/someone you know paid/received dowry or gave/received “gifts”, please don’t publicise it. If you have to share that information with someone (I don’t see why you have to, but anyway), please don’t exaggerate it. Avoid discussing it. All those dowry deaths happened because someone refused to shutup and inflated someone's greed. So remember, this is blood on your hands.
- When you hear someone discuss the amount or things given as dowry, please do not say “oh that xyz amount is common these days.” “that amount is ok, these days they are demanding so much (some higher xyz amount)” “that amount is fine, even rickshaw drivers demand so much (some xyz amount) as dowry”.
- Try to politely discourage people from discussing how much some XYZ paid/received.
- Talk against dowry in any form in any forum, blog about it, make some noise even at the expense of being called a “big bore”.
- If you or your family member refuses dowry, you are not doing a favour to the bride. If she is happy, the husband and everyone in the family are happy. No brownie points for doing what is expected out of you.
- Let us make dowry uncool and embarrass the ones who brag about it. Celebrate and publicly praise the ones who refuse to take dowry.
My Mom says that when she was a kid her Dad believed that dowry would be non-existent in a few years because many women would be educated and empowered. I don’t share his optimism. As long as greed is in a human being, this practice is going to continue unless we do something about it.