Nitish Kumar, the chief minister (CM) of Bihar, in a public address on Gandhi Jayanti, asked the people to forbid the system of dowry. The dowry system was abolished by the Indian parliament in 1961, under the Dowry Prohibition Act – but the sad fact is that this despicable system continues, unashamedly and unabashedly, across the length and breadth of India.
Many people don’t fear the law and they don’t despise dowry. Instead, dowry dictates the terms of marriage. Of all the marriages I have witnessed in my life, unfortunately, dowry has been the central theme of conversation in every single marriage.
The rate of dowry mostly depends upon the salary of the boy. The marriage of a girl, on the other hand, depends mostly on the savings of her parents. The birth of a baby girl is also seen as ‘unfortunate’ in many families – and especially so in poor families, where the burden of dowry is often the maximum. Therefore, many people either abort their girl child through illegal means, or they marry off the girls at a relatively young age so as to reduce the burden of dowry, because the amount keeps increasing with every passing year. This results in the practice of child marriage, which adversely impacts the health of the child bride and eventually hurts the entire society and economy in the long run.
The quality of the labor force of an economy depends on the overall physical and mental well-being of the labourers. If mothers (who are themselves underage, physically and mentally unfit for deliveries) deliver babies who are undernourished and unwell, one can calculate the ill-effect of it on the entire economic fabric of India. This hostility of the society towards the birth of a girl child also keeps the sex ratio low, leading to incidents like trafficking and buying of girls for marriage.
Most of this emanates mainly because of a simple problem that we joyfully boast of with our relatives during wedding functions – dowry. In many cases, women are intimidated, even after their marriage, to bring more moolah from their homes. In case, the desire is fulfilled, the demand is repeated – and in case it goes unfulfilled, mental and emotional torture ensues.
But what can be done about this? Who will bring about the change? Nitish Kumar, Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi? No, I don’t think any of them will be able to change the status quo. The status quo will prevail unless we – the new generation, the youth, who compromise a majority of the current Indian population – vow to change the situation.
Most of us like and share statuses, images and videos about Women’s Day, women’s empowerment, feminism, patriotism (and the like) on Facebook, Twitter. That is all okay. After all, that is what social media is all about – it is about voicing opinions.
But, only voicing opinions won’t change things. Let us make a start. Let us vow today that we will shun marriage functions where dowry is involved. Let us pledge to uphold the institution of marriage and protect it from the savageries of money. Let us pledge that neither will we take dowry nor will we give dowry for marriage. This is not only about boys – this is for girls too. I know it’s extremely hard – but you have to confront your parents if they have relented to someone’s request for dowry.
This rejection of dowry can become a social revolution. It can generate a change and can open the doors for a new India. Though I am not going to be married anytime soon, yet, this Diwali, I have pledged to reject dowry, if it is offered on my marriage.
To all those people reading this piece, I don’t know what you do, where you live or what are your ambitions are. I just seek one help for you – a help for my country, for my society, for my sisters and for my daughters. Please liberate the sacred practice of marriage from commercial interests. Please think about it for a moment – as a girl who is unmarried because her parents are poor, as a foetus which has been killed because her parents feared dowry, as parents who spent their lifetime savings for their daughter, and as a woman who is being harassed by her in-laws to get more money from her parents. Do think, for once. And if it stirs your conscience, take a pledge (like I did this Diwali) to ‘abort’ the practice of dowry.
Featured image used for representative purposes only.