Earlier, I felt that I shouldn’t be writing on this subject, at least not so early, or until I’m married. By then, I might have strongly established, the fact that I’ve not received any ‘dowry’. “What will people think of me?”, I said to myself: “Will they not think, that I’m trying to be over-smart, behaving like a ‘holy Joe’, don’t understand the reality of life, and so on… Probably, some are even thinking, “let’s wait until he’s married, and see whether, he really sticks to his belief”. However, on the brighter side, I realized that writing on a subject, you strongly believe in, can only serve to reinforce your convictions, more firmly.
Not long ago, I read a news article about a controversial school text book, published and approved by the state government of Maharashtra. This book, has a chapter on the ‘Dowry System’. As I read the contents of the book, not only was I out-raged, but deeply disturbed at what young minds are fed with, to put it more precisely, poisoned with these days.
In the text book, here is one of the reasons, given for taking dowry:
“If a girl is ugly and handicapped, then it becomes difficult for her to get married.” –Maharashtra School Text book
The chapter goes on to subtly imply, that parents of such girls, have to give dowry to compensate for her ugliness.
Now, imagine a girl, who already thinks she’s ugly, reading this, and a boy, who after reading this, thinks he has every right to demand, if he were to marry a girl who is (supposedly) ugly.
Men or just Boys?
I’ve asked some men ( or just adolescent boys perhaps ), if they would take dowry, to which some plainly replied, they will not ( yes, there are men like that). However, what I found most annoying, was when some of them sheepishly answered, “I will not take dowry, but if my mummy & daddy want it, I won’t oppose them”, my question to those boys who talk like this, ‘were you born without a backbone? If you don’t have the spine to stand up for what you believe in, why on earth, do you want to get married?’
I thank God for my parents, who never taught, or spoke, about such regressive practices. I don’t remember when, but, I remember, that on one fine day, I made a firm resolution, that I should never take dowry. However, the seeds for it were sown much earlier in my life -a discussion reserved for a later time.
Alarming support for ‘Dowry’
To understand the dowry system, and its roots, I did some study online, on a few forums and websites . What I found out, were both shocking, and disappointing.
To quote one such person, who in a Quora forum, wrote that: “Dowry was an institution managed by women, for women, to enable them to establish their status, maintain their independence and have recourse in an emergency”.
What I found unacceptable with this answer, was the view, that dowry established a woman’s status quo! Really? Is that how you determine a woman’s worth?
Proponents of ‘dowry’, are willing to go to any length, to justify their act; saying that it’s willingly and whole-heartedly given by the bride’s family and so on..
Even, if I assume it to be true, such an answer, only works in an environment, where the families involved are wealthy. During the medieval times, a time before ‘democracy’ became the most prominent type of rule, kingdoms, both petty and the mighty, often clashed with each other. One of the most common ways, by which they resolved conflicts was by marrying off their sons and daughters to the rival kingdom, and the daughters sometimes received some wealth from their fathers as a gift. The wealthy aristocrats, and landlords practiced this system too. But, what they fail to understand, is that the same yardstick, cannot be applied to the poor and the have-nots.
Dowry and Ego
As time went by, this became a measure of a man’s presumed value, since the ones who were considered the most eligible always received a ‘big fat dowry‘. In due course, this became a battle of men’s ego and show of one’s wealth! As a matter of fact, even today, if a groom’s family don’t ask for dowry, rumors that the man has physical disabilities, or some serious health/personality issues, will start to abound! Such is the regressive attitude of people.
The Dark side of Dowry:
We read about incidents, where women are harassed, and sometimes killed, or are forced to commit suicide, being unable to bear the emotional, and mental trauma, arising out of ‘dowry torture’ from the groom’s family. What is even more ironic, is the fact that in many of these cases, the abusers happen to be other women( mother & sister-in laws). It is possible, that they do so, as they too might have had to give dowry, when they got married, and might look at this opportunity, as a ‘pay-back’ time.
Whatever be the reason, no amount of argument, can justify the evil ill-effects of ‘dowry’. Families have been ruined, unable to bear the burden of ‘dowry’ they could never afford to give. Indirectly, this has also led to the death of millions of girls due to ‘female infanticide’ and an equally large number of unborn girl fetuses due to ‘female foeticide’.
There are people even today, ironically, including the women in the family, who still think that a ‘first born’ girl child and girl children in general, are a curse, on their family. They would even be willing to kill their own daughters, and granddaughters, to wade off the back-luck ( the birth of a girl) and give them a boy child.
Mothers and fathers, who resist such practices, are often reprimanded, and their girl babies, and unborn fetuses, are forcibly killed, or aborted.
Those who think it’s harmless, and that it’s fine, as long as they are able to afford ‘dowry’ for their daughters, must be see the ‘big picture’. It creates a false sense of pride and spreads like a deadly disease, and doesn’t distinguish between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have not’s’.
Unfortunately, the poor don’t have the means to fight it, and hence, unless efforts are taken by the rich and the cultural elites to stop it, it will not cease to haunt the lives of millions of the unfortunate poor.
The ‘dowry culture’ is like a deadly disease, that doesn’t distinguish between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have not’s’.
Marriage is not a ‘Business Deal’
Above all, the ‘dowry system’ strips off the value of the ‘Sacred Covenant’ that ‘Marriage’ is, and makes it look like a ‘business contract’ between two parties.
It’s time men and their parents, start breaking this cycle of abuse, that is being passed down through generations, and create a ‘better society’, where the poor no longer dread having a daughter, and where ‘marriage’ is treated for what it is a ‘Sacred Commitment‘ between a man and a woman, and not as a ‘contract’.
The ‘Dowry System’ strips off the value of the ‘Sacred Covenant’ that ‘Marriage’ is, and makes it look like a ‘business contract’ between two parties.
‘Two becoming One’ -This is what marriage is all about.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh – The Bible.
Let’s together build a better society, and thereby a better India!