The true evil of Dowry
Ask anyone this question: What is dowry? Most would say it is the price paid by a woman or her family to get her to be accepted for marriage by a potential husband. Now there are several questions that are hidden in plain sight within this explanation.
If dowry is a recognized crime and everyone is supposed to know this, then what prevented the woman or her family to walk away from such an exchange, if it was indeed demanded? This is in view of the often lamented ‘fact’ that there are more boys on Indian soil than women. Which means that women have more choice and can afford to reject dowry seekers. If women as such are being ‘objectified’ by the Indian male then it stands to reason that women are more in demand than men. In which case, it would be logical for men to pay dowry to women, since women have more choice and more bargaining power.
It must be told to all Indian parents that adult daughters in the family should not be seen as useless piece of furniture or cattle incapable of sustaining or earning for themselves. Dowry is the symptom of a mindset where people see an adult daughter as a piece of brainless entity who is always in need of regular maintenance and upkeep in the form of food, clothing and lodging.
Dowry is a bribe to any man who unwittingly accepts the responsibility to look after a certified life-long victim who has declared herself incapable of standing up for her own dignity. Therefore dowry is a crime in more ways than one and actually perpetrated by the giver.
There are a few glass items that society has ignored for too long. It is possible that these glass items are so transparent it was invisible or it is possible that it was so opaque that light of sensibility got refracted. It is also possible that people were so busy looking up at the ceiling that they neglected to see what is in front of them.
The glass cage
This is the self imprisonment of the female psyche into a state of victim-hood. How else can we explain the fact that many highly educated women with professional qualifications talk about being victims of dowry. Who is to blame here? The woman herself, or for the sake of convenience, her parents. These are the very same parents who poured hard earned money into her education. No parent across the world would educate a child on the assumption that the child would grow up and become financially dependent on them. Also, there is no educational syllabus in the world which tells women that they need to depend on others for their livelihood.
In the context of arranged marriages, why would Indian parents be so desperate to shower dowry on the groom to get rid of their daughters by marriage. Is it because they think that their daughters are incapable of living and earning for themselves. Or are they trying to gift-wrap some psychological, emotional or medical handicap?
Whatever the reason, this form of victim-hood, whether forced by parents or self assumed by many women, is a form of a glass cage which many women have come to carefully nurture, cherish and refuse to let go. This has serious implications for their own future and the future of the upcoming generations
The glass bowl
Once the idea of victim-hood has been strongly embedded either by herself or by her parents or through government sponsored programs, the woman somehow holds herself against her logical thought process and encourages herself to behave like a parasite on whoever she feels is responsible for her upkeep. She forgets that every individual of mature age is responsible for themselves. Many women who can logically plot the route and plan their logistics to lawyer’s offices and courts somehow just stop themselves short of plotting their the route to their own earned livelihood and dignified living. In this age of realized equality, any woman who she knows how to spend, also ought to know that she can also earn and not leech on the father or the husband, whether she is single, married or separated or divorced.
If we ask any female college student why she wants to pursue a higher education, she will tell you about her higher aspirations of work, livelihood, ambitions, service to society and so on. Why then do women seek maintenance when they get married and why then do women seek alimony when they want to get out of the marriage. Is this not an insult to all women who have made it on their own in the world? Is this not a gross disservice and insult to all the girls to grow up thinking it is their fate to ultimately financially depend on men? It is an irony that women activists who vociferously objected to the word ‘keep’ applied to women in a Supreme Court judgement maintain ominous silence on this ongoing onslaught on women’s dignity by the legal provisions of maintenance and alimony.
Maintenance at most can be justified on fixed short term basis only for disabled spouses who would have sustained the disability during the marriage.
Asset distribution at most can be justified as share of the combined savings of both partners during the subsistence of the marriage, but it is not a free-loading retirement benefit scheme and neither is it an incentive for divorce.
If these concepts of Dowry, Matrimonial Maintenance and Alimony are not uprooted and relegated to the documented past, there is a danger that even future generations of women will never realise true empowerment and dignity. I for one cannot stand by and allow my teenaged daughter to grow up and become a parasite on another man and kill her potential for survival and aspirations as envisaged by the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign. What about you?
For a Hindi translation of above, click here