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Dowry: A custom relishing Indian weddings

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Gahlot Prakhar
Gahlot Prakhar
Working on ideas that can make a difference.

The big fat Indian weddings are famous for their shimmering light, rituals and brides loaded with gold. You can see several guests eyeing the couple standing on a beautifully decorated stage with lovely flowers, talking about just one thing: How much does the groom receive? The idea of dowry has become so pronounced in India that it no longer seems to be wicked. I believed that our generation, which is much more aware over the years, will take the required steps to stop this unethical practice.

But to my shock, this institution of dowry has flourished in India over the years. During the start of the 20th century, around dowry was paid in around 40 per cent of marriages. Since then, it has only increased to plateau around 90 per cent from 1975 onwards. I do not know about you people, but I have not encountered a single case of marriage where dowry was not offered. It flourishes itself in multiple ways, from cars to air conditioners to destination weddings. 

In 6 months, I came across three different marriages with three different ways of dowry. Let us start from our villages, recently one of my far related cousin sisters got married. When our country was dealing with the first wave of coronavirus, luckily, not many people were allowed to gather, cutting the cost of hospitality on the family and unluckily, the groom family asked for a two-wheeler dowry. My uncle collected money loaning from the landlords to fulfil the groom’s wish, and he is still repaying the same until now. If we look at weddings in a small city the condition is worse, my friend’s sister got married recently.

The wedding was close to a big fat Indian wedding in the arena of a five-star hotel. The wedding expenditure was divided into half between the family but only after when the bride family paid lakhs of rupees to the groom on his demand. Later, I was surprised to see the bride given a farewell in a brand-new Toyota Fortuner. Only a few of us were aware of where the car came from. We just looked at each other and smiled in despair over the situation. If we move to metro cities, the state of affairs is the worst. One of my other friend’s cousin sister got married lately. Dowry was demanded uniquely in this case. A way which my friends and I had never come across.

It took us a while to absorb what was happening. The groom not only demanded M G Hectare top model. He even physically came to select the colour from the showroom and asked for a destination wedding, with all the expenditures paid off by the bride family. To my shock, even after marriage, if something happens to the car, it is the bride’s family paying for it. Looking at all this happening around me, I have started losing hope of change from this generation.

India reported around 7000 dowry-related deaths in 2019. The family prefers to marry their daughters to a higher caste and higher income group. To achieve that, this gap between education and financial status is filled by paying a large sum of dowry either in gifts or cash. The only way to eliminate this unethical practice is by providing equal education and economic opportunities to girls.

As per the 2011 census, India reports 53.7 per cent of female literacy, which is far lower than the male literacy rate. Sixty-five per cent of our population lives in villages; to improve the employment rate in our towns, we need to provide better rural infrastructure and transportation facilities. Society needs to step up for equal economic opportunities. We also need to overthrow the system of patriarchy that has been sustaining in our society for too long. The change is inevitable and closing in. But it will happen gradually.

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Gahlot Prakhar
Gahlot Prakhar
Working on ideas that can make a difference.
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