Thursday, June 18, 2009

More Thoughts On Dowry

A comment on this post made me want to spell out who I think is responsible for dowry harassment, that is, a woman's husband or in-laws harassing her for dowry up to the point that they kill her or she kills herself.

First, of course, the parents and/or other relatives of the groom, who make the dowry demands. Shame on them for placing a monetary value on their son as a husband and then putting him up for sale. For trying to take advantage of a woman's inferior position in our society. For trying to fleece the woman whom they should think of as a daughter.

But the one who is most directly responsible for the crime is the husband. He is to blame for asking his wife's parents to pay him for marrying her, for putting his own services as a husband up for sale. For committing such a crime against someone with whom he is entering into what should be the closest, most supportive relationship.

Every woman should also take responsibility for herself, and refuse to be a victim. It's sad that educated, urban women (who should be less vulnerable) also face such harassment. Why give in to the first demand for dowry? Why marry a person who asks for money as a condition to marrying you? When there are so many cases of dowry harassment, why put your life and sanity at risk and marry someone who asks for dowry? Why not take your life in your own hands and refuse to give in to pressure from parents or society?

But in cases where the victim dies (either kills herself or gets killed), I would blame her parents most of all. Invariably in such cases (from all I've read), the parents give in to the first demand for dowry. After the wedding is over, the groom's family makes more demands. How can someone get their daughter married to a man who demands dowry? Have they not heard of any of the many other dowry harassment cases that get reported (apart from presumably many that are not), of women getting beaten or burnt for dowry? How can they trust their daughter's life to someone like that?

More importantly, what do they do once the harassment starts? How does it get to such a pass that the daughter feels like she has no way out and kills herself? (Or the torture heaped on her increases until it becomes certain that she isn't going to bring more money and she is killed?) Is it not the parents' fault if she can't feel that she could return to them and ask for help when things go wrong? Is it not the parents' fault for persuading her to live with her husband and/or in-laws and saying "everything will be fine"?

If they can come up after her death to allege torture by her husband and in-laws, why did they do nothing while she was alive?

In an arranged marriage, the husband and the in-laws are relative strangers. Their asking for dowry and harassing the bride is a serious crime. But how can parents abandon their daughter and refuse to help, even though they know she is being tortured and harassed?

Which is why I think dowry will not cease until parents value daughters as much as sons, until the love they have for their daughters outweighs their concern about their status in society, until a divorced daughter ceases to be a source of shame.

9 comments:

Banno said...

Dowry will not cease until parents of daughters refuse to get their daughters married with dowry. And they stop thinking that they must get their daughters married, come what may. And daughters cease to be a burden. And are not taught that they are a burden, or atleast that they belong to some one else, (amanat and paraya dhan and all that shit) from the time they are little.

NuttyNits said...

Free money is an addiction... The more you get it the more you want. and what better than getting it in name of tradition!!

This concept of dowry pisses me off to the core. I don't have enough words to condemn it.

There is another breed of people who (if) don't take dowry for their sons, they think that they are doing a favor to the brides family and make the bride feel obligation all her life!! I hate them too. Coz they are Hippocrates.

Long long ago men tried to suppress women all around the world just because they were intimidated by them. Burnt intelligent women in the name of witchcraft!! Imposed countless social restrictions on her!! & women are still struggling to break free form all this.

The more I think about these things the more I begin to hate this world!!

Unmana said...

Banno: I'm glad you agree with me.

Nits: That is why I think we have to stop the practice by ceasing to give dowry, because if you are prepared to give there will always be someone prepared to receive.

@lankr1ta said...

I think people need to wake up to the fact marriage in itself is not a necessity. Once the "sell by date" fears are over, the contingent evils, dowry etc etc ( all very convenient misogyny will stop). Echoing Banno here, women should also wake up to it. No amount of "better dowry" laws are going to help if getting married is considered of prime importance.
Nutty, I think the "doing a favor" is such a disease a throwback from the rampant patriarchy around us. Women are grateful if their husbands or husband's families treat them like human beings. I wonder why no man ever expresses gratitude that his wife loves him. I have never heard it.

dipali said...

The entire concept of arranged marriages somehow adds to these iniquities, with the girls' families unnecessarily subjugating themselves to the grooms'. We need financially independent young men and women to make informed choices about matrimony, not just going ahead because it is socially expected of them. Agreed, the biological clock does exist, but there are also reproductive choices which only the couple concerned should be making. I like Alankrita's concept of a 'sell by date'!

Unmana said...

@lankr1ta: I think it's more likely that marriage won't be considered a necessity once more women become (financially and otherwise) independent. Once people become used to seeing happy single women, it should be easier to view a girl as a person.

Dipali: I totally agree with you! In fact, I've been thinking of describing my views on arranged marriages in a post... Maybe I'll actually do it now.

push said...

Hi..."dowry' is something..dats hovering around my mind lately...Cos i have been asked by my boyfriend of 6 years to shell out price for being a girl from out caste...
and given a choice to walk out if i dont agree.and i have chosen the latter..cos that though gives me pain and hurt..doesnt make me loose my self esteem.

Unmana said...

push: I'm glad you had the courage to walk out. I am sure you will be happier without him. All the best.

Indian Home Maker said...

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