Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dowry, the scourge of Indians

Dowry is prevalent, despite being illegal. Two persuasive stories tell of new brides who were tortured for more dowry. These two stories are additions to a growing statistic of dowry related crimes. Combined with the poor literacy of girls, dowry makes brides powerless and vulnerable.

Let's not turn our minds away from this. The glamour, the glitz, the booming economy mean nothing to these two women (and many more) who are preyed upon for dowry. Let's not be so smug in our achievement that we forget basic human rights.

The deeper root of dowry is the lack of women's education. If a boy doesn't study Engineering or Medicine, he is considered a failure. After all, how will he provide for the family? But a girl is not encouraged to academic achievement, they are rather trained to be good housewives, discouraged from being financially independent. Subliminally, girls are repeatedly told that their marriage is not something they can have a say in. (Unless they are over educated, in which case they're spoiling their own chances at marriage.) This has got to change. The problem of dowry exists because a girl isn't expected to be skilled at the time of marriage. Her education and job prospects don't figure into the equation, either because she isn't educated, or is not allowed to work after the marriage.

All this is specific to the poor or the rural setting. Things are changing in the cities and among the educated, but even here, dowry isn't completely absent.

Let's eradicate dowry in our lifetime. हम मिल कर दहेज की प्रथा को मिटा सकते हैं ।

[ Clarification on Wednesday, March 26 2008: What is specific to the poor or rural settings is the lack of women's education.

Dowry itself is rampant, and perhaps the worst when the groom is educated, accomplished, and believes that he must exact his worth from the bride's family. The only glimmer of hope is among marriages out of love, or marriages between working professionals, where the wife has equal rights as the husband.

Dowry is rampant, and it is a rare marriage where it isn't involved. If the marriage was arranged, dowry was involved. Despite the rhetoric, and the illegality, little has been done to combat it.

Educated, rich people see nothing wrong in accepting dowry, and that is what makes this practice all the more shameful.]