Wednesday 23, Sep 2020, Delhi (India)
Are the lives of women equal to the dowry their parents can afford to give to the groom’s family? Imagine keeping your life on a scale with the other holding filled with jewelry, money, car, clothes, and valuables. The more the other scale weighs the better your life post-marriage! Many Indian women still live this SOCIAL EVIL and the same decides their value and status in the in-laws and husband’s family.
This may sound like a “Please it is a thing of the past, It doesn’t happen anymore'” but truly it does, not only in the rural and semi-urban areas of India but also in the metropolitans where the system of gifting aka dowry is deeply embedded in the culture of the caste, religion, and family.
According to statistics, 2018 noted 7.1 thousand deaths of women legally registered as dowry complaints. However, these numbers are a drop from the 8.5 thousand dowry deaths in 2014 in India yet the truth remains ‘These 7.1 thousand women were despicable and ill-treated just because their parents could not live up to the dowry expectation of the family’.
I’m A Girl Not A Burden!
As stated by the National Indian Census in 2011, the male-female ratio in India was at 940 females per 1000 males, which is a drop from 1901 where there were 972 females per 1000 males.
The Indian culture, on one hand, respects women by depicting them as goddesses empowered with knowledge, strength, and education and on the other considers the girl child as a burden mostly killing them in the womb or giving them away to save themselves from the shame of not being able to collect and give dowry.
What Is Dowry?
Dowry is not a practice native to the Indian subcontinent. It is prevalent across Asia, Africa, and even parts of Europe.
Dowry can be referred to as the valuables gifted to the groom and his family while giving the daughter’s hand in marriage. Dowry can be in the form of cash, jewelry, coins, clothes, car, assets, etc.
Relevance Of Dowry During Ancient Times
Dowry was considered as a security that a father would provide to the girl’s husband and the girl too, to secure their future. Think of it to be a part of the ancestry going to the girl and her husband from the bride’s father especially because in most Indian cultures women did not have a right to property or any other valuables of the father’s family during those times. Hence, it was their way of giving a part of the heredity to the girl and her newlywed family to secure their future.
How Did This Become A Social Evil?
Gradually, the act of love and passing on of heritage became an act of status and respect in society. Forced rituals such as ‘Milani’ (The celebration of gifting the groom’s family members) and ‘Daheej Dikhai’ (The dowry is displayed in front of the groom’s family members and friends to openly show what the bride has brought with herself), integrated with marriage rituals and ceremonies, making it a mandate to gift expensive and exclusive clothing such as designer wear, jewelry with diamond and gold, cars and other valuables to keep up with the latest fashion trends, and financial status in the society.
The result of this social evil had changed the Indian culture and its perspective towards bringing up a daughter. Many in the semi-urban and rural areas only train the daughters to become good housewives, dropping them out of schools, teaching them household works, and distinguishing them and their lives from their sons. Another practice that mothers with daughters follow religiously is gathering and collecting their dowry since the day of their birth. Be it timeless handloom fashion culture clothes, jewelry, cash deposits, and even land and other properties. The motive here is to gather enough before the girl becomes of a marriageable age so there is no stress or sudden burden at the time of getting the daughter married.
This investment instead should be of ink for a constructive purpose of educating the girl so she can build a career and settle herself.
Imagine, even after all the hard work and vision of creating a dowry for the daughter while she is getting married so she can have a respectful and healthy life, many women are still ill-treated and burnt or killed as the dowry vision and treasure does not fulfill the expectations (greed) of the husband’s family. Such is the irony and fate of many daughters in India.
“My father could not afford to give a car to my husband during our wedding, he had instead made a promise that he would give one in a year post-marriage, I was continuously taunted by my family members until they finally received the car from my father.”- Anonymous Delhi Resident
Not Giving Dowry Means Ruining A Daughter’s Life!
20th Century Wedding, Dowry, and Expenditure: Social Evil Or A Booming Industry?
Father: “I want to find a groom for my daughter”
Match Maker: “How much are you willing to invest?”
This is the first question that any father or mother is asked while searching for a groom for their daughter. investment here refers to how big and fat the wedding would be? What will you gift the groom and his family? How much jewelry and cash? Designer wear or no? etc etc… Thus a union for spending life together has been converted into a big fat industry. From wedding planners, matchmakers to Indian fashion designers, and jewelry brands, all of them benefit from this Indian culture practice.
In the modern era, marriages have become more of an event in India, where both the bride and groom along with their family demand to wear the latest fashion trends, adorn themselves with trending jewelry, have destination weddings, and have extravagant photo shoots. It has now become a lifestyle depiction and an extension to the show off culture that was earlier limited to ‘daheej dikhai’ within family and friends only.
For those who can afford and sway with the wave, it is a great event to enjoy and reconnect with relatives and friends. But for the fathers who cannot afford to adorn their daughter with a dream wedding, it is no less than an experience of stress and pressure.
In the 20th century, dowry has now taken a new face, it involves the length of the wedding event, the total expenditure made at the wedding, the Indian fashion designer wear of the bride and the groom, the jewelry exchanged, and adorned, the post-wedding rituals and photoshoot destinations. The expenses of which are borne by the father of the bride and if luck is by the side of the bride’s father, the groom’s family also decide to share the expenses on a percentage basis.
All this and the added dowry banks up to a huge investment made for an uncertain future of the girl in her new family
Thinking of it, had this investment been made on her education, career, and business one thing would have been for sure and that is a settled, financially independent girl with a secured future of her own!
Breaking Social Evil!
In 1961, the Indian law passed a Dowry Prohibition Act, abolishing the act of dowry and equipping women with legal rights to fight against injustice in the form of cruelty or domestic violence done on them due to the dowry system followed in the Indian culture.
But for a practice so rooted within a varied subcontinent such as India, the legal system alone cannot be of major help. Hence, everyone in the system involved, including the groom and bride, their families, Indian fashion designers, wedding planners, educators, photographers, and all others must step up to fight this social evil that keeps the fathers of the brides and the brides themselves under constant pressure and stress.
What Can The Society Do -Fight The Social Evil?
Educate the girl and let her build a career so she can earn for herself instead of being dependant on her husband and his family.
Brides must know of the father’s limitations and demand a wedding ceremony under the same.
Introduce and teach social evils and how to combat them in schools so that the girls grow with a mindset of DOWRY or any other social evil as a threat that needs to be removed from society.
Do Not discriminate between a son and a daughter.
The Indian fashion designers and other wedding related services and products must become conscious and aware of the stress and pressure that the parents go through and come out with affordable collections too so women can enjoy their big day with the same enthusiasm as the others.
Most Important ‘Be The Change You Want To See’ – Do not encourage the practice of giving or taking dowry.
The Changing Era Of The 2000s
The 2000s was an eye-opener for many in the Indian society. The introduction of digitalization, and exposure with easy access to different opinions and philosophies of people, led to the beginning of a change in the wedding industry of India.
Educated and tech-savvy women started to find partners for themselves online who would share the same mentality of less expenditure on weddings and more savings and expenses on experience over show-offs, thus eliminating the need for matchmakers and their investment questions.
The impact of globalization and the urge to make a career in various fields has also led women to become financially independent understanding the need for investments and recognizing extravagant wedding expenditures as a waste. They thus, opt for court marriages or simple weddings lowering the pressure on the fathers.
Many schemes introduced by the government in rural and semi-urban areas to educate the girl child and keep them from dropping out is also preparing a whole new generation free from continuing this social evil in the future.
I Knock Fashion Desk
The wave of change is bringing a new perspective to the society, equipping girls to fight against the dowry system and building a foundation in them that stresses upon self-dependency over financial help from in-laws or husbands.
This era also now calls upon to everyone who is either going through a stressful living due to dowry or is trapped in a pressurizing situation to stand up for themselves and walk out of such problems to build a better and worthy living for themselves.
I Knock Fashion‘s taboo and social evil blogs help to create awareness and give strength and hope to those going through tough times. We hope that you gain out of it and support all those WHO ARE FIGHTING AGAINST THE DOWRY SYSTEM IN SOME WAY OR THE OTHER!