Dowry, reamplified

Except the occasional story of the brave girl who refused to give in, we hardly read any news on dowry violence or dowry demands these days. We would love to believe that the problem had disappeared. But unfortunately, the problem of dowry has become far more entrenched and has taken newer forms. Dowry is a symptom of a deeper disease that relates to how our society values women, and therefore, more than legal enforcements, the problem of dowry needs a social awakening.

The problem of dowry is being fought through enforcement of various laws. In different parts of India, alongside the compulsory registration of marriages, all gifts given to the bride are being registered at the local police station. But it must be understood that dowry is no more a mere transfer of gifts. Over the years, India – especially the middle class (the class most engrossed into dowry) – has changed. With the growth in the consumer economy, easy finance has taken over and immediate gifts hardly make any sense. The demands now, among many other things, involve the kind of wedding that should take place. Notice the kind of boastfully showy wedding that is emerging across India- irrespective of how much one can afford. Naturally, the girl’s father pays for all the fanfare.

Interestingly, none of this ensures that the girl is safe in the marital home. In fact, female child sex ratio is the least in regions where dowry demands are the strongest. For wherever a girl is seen as a burden because of dowry, female children are being prevented from being born. Campaigning and enforcing legalalities will only solve a part. It is important for the people to get involved – the young men and women must decide to go against the tide, demand simpler weddings and say a firm ‘no’ to the vulgar demands. Unless this happens, we will continue to swing our swords in void.

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