“If a girl is ugly and handicapped, then it becomes very difficult for her to get married,” is one of the lines in a sociology textbook for the Maharashtra state board’s secondary and higher secondary students. The line comes in a chapter that is trying to define the root causes of ‘major social problems in India’, which is also the title of the chapter.

While the chapter does consider dowry as a social evil, it takes no time in equating dowry with ‘ugly’ looks of the girl. It further says that if the girl is handicapped, then also it becomes difficult for her to get married which upsets the family of the girl and puts them under stress and eventually they have to pay a hefty dowry to get her married.

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“To marry such girls, bridegroom and his family demand more dowry. Parents of such girls become helpless and pay dowry as per the demands of the bridegroom’s family. It leads to rise in the practice of dowry system.”

Dowry chapter
Dowry chapter (Pic by NDTV)

To put in words such regressive thinking may not be the right way to go about tackling such a major social problems in India. It is more like feeding to young children what has been going on for a long time. While now people have become more liberal and open-minded and dowry is condemned more than ever before, it is still prevalent in many parts of the country.

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Taking an example of my own cousin sisters who were over-weight at the time of their marriage, my uncle had to pay large sums of money to get them married. While it is a sad truth in today’s time, it is also a reality. We cannot look away from the facts, writing them down in school textbooks and feeding them to children to propagate the idea is not the solution to it.

The next section of the chapter has the evil itself – dowry – having a list of 12 causes which include ‘social prestige’, ‘expectation of the bridegroom’ and ‘compensation principle’. The causes do make a close estimation of what actually happens in India. But instead of showing them in bad light, the chapter appears to justify them.

“Social issues” need to be dealt with great sensitization to not multiply the effect of the said social evil. Like here we saw, by saying that the ugliness of the girl defines how much dowry her father will have to give almost establishes that this is not a wrong act and it is completely fine to take this tradition forward.