This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Youth Ki Awaaz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

For His Family, He Is Either A Fool Or A God For Saying No To Dowry

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

By Savvy Soumya Misra:

What I am attempting here is a bit difficult. And as a dear friend put it “a bit tricky”. It is about men or in this case ‘a man’ (another dear friend) who put his foot down against dowry and a splurgy wedding. He prevailed. To some extent at least. There are few good men who say no to dowry in India, especially when it is an arranged marriage. This friend is one of them and may his tribe grow.

Photo Credit
Picture Credit

For anonymity’s sake, I will refer to him as ‘My Friend’. He got engaged last year. My Friend, an ex-IITian, works in the NGO sector, his fiancé has been selected for a prestigious government job. Both belong to modest middle class backgrounds, both lost their fathers when they were still studying and while My Friend is the second youngest and the only son among four siblings, his fiancé is the eldest of the three sisters.

A little more about the fiancé — she lost her father to an illness, the treatment of which sapped most of their savings. They at least had a house, which was a huge relief. With the sole breadwinner gone, the high-school going daughters had started taking tuitions to sustain the family. They did so through school, college and through the time they prepared for entrance exams. All three have qualified for bank jobs now- two in government banks and one in a private bank.

The date for the marriage is set for April next year. In India, the rituals in traditional marriages are designed in such a way that the bride’s family ends up bearing most of the financial burden. And then kicks in the societal pressure. A pressure to give, a pressure to show the world that ‘they can’.

Having been through tough financial times, the bride’s mother wanted to prove that she can. Especially to those who believed that with three daughters she was doomed to be miserable. But now we can all agree that with successful daughters she doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone.

Though a lavish wedding was always on the radar they were a bit hesitant about approaching My Friend’s family. The concerns were dowry demands. So My Friend approached the girl’s family instead and explained that he doesn’t want anything at all, they shouldn’t worry and that he would prefer a very low-key marriage. He often laughs about it —“In the family circle I swing between being a fool and being a god for telling them I am against dowry”.

With that taken care of, the next hurdle was the lavish wedding. By lavish we are talking about spending Rs 6-7 lakhs in a tier III city– with a big hotel, fancy arrangements, taking care of multiple rituals and inviting a whole host of people. “Neither of us have that kind of money. They would have dug into all their savings for something as futile as this.” It took him a good six months to convince them against this. His fiancé’s family wasn’t too happy with this decision but his family stood by him. Now both sides have agreed to scale it down. “I would have preferred one ceremony for the entire marriage. That couldn’t happen. At least now both of us are bearing the expenses equally, as much as is possible.”

‘Dowry’ in India is usually payment in cash or in kind (in the form of expensive gifts like jewellery, car, home appliances and in some cases property) given to the groom by the bride’s family. This is one of the regressive manifestations of the patriarchal system prevalent in our country today where parents begin to accumulate dowry for their daughter almost from the day she is born. So deep set is the bias against women in India that it is irrelevant if she is financially independent; she is still seen as a burden, who parents want to get rid of at the earliest — even if it means paying to do so. And then there are the social pressures.

Though dowry is illegal in India and a punishable offence under the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961 it continues to be rampant . The demands range from the usual like cash, car, furniture, clothes and what not to the outrageous like arranging a lavish wedding, paying for all the rituals and pandering to the bloated egos of the groom’s immediate and extended family.

The demand for dowry is a bottomless pit. Women continue to be killed for not meeting dowry demands. Over a decade ago, My Friend’s eldest sister was burnt by her husband and in-laws. Dowry was one of the reasons. She would have become yet another statistic but she survived with 62% burns. She was brought home with two young children in tow. She battled depression for years before getting back on her feet. She now teaches in a government school.

But many are not as fortunate as My Friend’s sister. National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data shows that in 2013, India reported 8083 dowry deaths (Sec 304 B IPC). Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Bihar registered the maximum cases with 2335 and 1182 deaths respectively. In 2012, the total incidents of dowry deaths was 8233 with UP and Bihar recording the highest number of dowry deaths with 2244 and 1275 respectively . Both UP and Bihar have been repeat offenders for quite some time .

My Friend often jokes that since his fiancé is the one with the government job, he should be paying the dowry. “A prospective groom with a government job comes with a big price tag in my state.” A strong proponent of gender equality, he adds, “in my case, it should be applicable the other way round.”

The author is with policy, research, campaigns, Oxfam India

You must be to comment.
  1. Babar

    Watch the movie 498A: The Wedding Gift

  2. Babar

    The only people who are harassed for dowry are men, who must be earning a fat paycheck every month for starters to even be considered for marriage, and then at the time of marriage buy expensive jewellery, diamond rings, gifts for the bride’s entire family, and when things go awry in marriages, are harassed by women for dowry settlement worth lacs, alimony, and usurp half of a man’s property after a divorce.

    Women are the abusers. Men are the abused.

    1. Fem

      I am curious.

      Are you paid to spend majority of your day writing same comments on every article or do you do it out of your own spiteful agenda?

    2. TheSeeker

      I actually agree with what he said here.

    3. Prateek

      You are actually very right….

  3. TheSeeker

    Dowry is now only an evil that men are accused of. Divorce happens? File a case under ipc 498A, accuse your innocent husband with 0 evidence, get some money and live a happy life. No one will give this corrupted case a second glance. Instead, you’ll receive praises and assurances from your well wishers who tell you to ‘stay strong’. And your husband? He rots in jail, regretting the thought of marriage.

  4. Babar

    According to NCRB Data, there were 2,22,091 arrests related to 498A in 2013 alone, out of which 1,74,620 were men and 47,471 were women – A man is arrested every 3 minutes for dowry. Including both sexes, an arrest is made approximately every 2.3 minutes.

  5. Swapna

    No woman needs to bring dowry from her family. No men has to measure the amount of money they need to spend on the Bride’s family. Please understand that Dowry has come as a culture when the Bride’s families are unable to find eligible Bachelors. Dowry became a culture but never has an evident reason or logic behind. Atleast the educated families need to understand that Dowry is not a healthy activity in any of the marriages. Women are just as equal as men in every aspect. Either pay dowry from both sides or try to make your own wedding. The suggestion might be debatable, but I believe if the couple decides to spend their own money to get married, the culture of 50-50 expenses would come into picture. I understand that its the families that wish a lavish wedding for their kids and involve themselves in the marriage expenditure.

    I have a curious thinking if most Indian men will ever consider spending their own expenses to get married?? Happy to know

    1. Vishal Saurav

      As a man, I am completely against ANY kind of dowry and will bear the entire expenditure of marriage. One condition. I should not be asked to take care of my wife economically(she should earn for herself and not depending on me) and in case of separation, she should not demand any kind of alimony or maintenance for her from me. I have a curious thinking to know how many Indian women will agree with this.

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By Youth Ki Awaaz

By Youth Ki Awaaz

By Youth Ki Awaaz

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below