Dowry has long been abolished in India but it is still relevant in many parts of our country. The aim of asking for dowries is to use women and their families as a source of money rather than considering them a new part of the family. If a groom’s family doesn’t directly demand a dowry from the bride’s family, they take it in the form of gifts and tradition. Another way to indirectly demand dowry is to ask for working brides so that their income can be used by the groom’s family. Yes, you heard it right. Groom’s families have upgraded their way of demanding dowries. They are exploiting women in the name of the freedom to work post-marriage.
After marriage, rarely are women allowed to work. But if they are, their salaries are either treated as their pocket money and kept away from the financial needs of the family, or they are sucked in by every member leaving no penny in the women’s hands. Women’s salaries become a form of dowry for marital families who use it rightfully without any guilt. This not only objectifies women as money-making machines but also snatches away their right to make decisions about their money.
Many women are refrained by their marital families from sending money to their parents for the same reason. They assume that by bringing home a working bahu, the family has all the right over the money she earns. Another reason behind the control of marital families over women’s money is the obligation bahus owe their in-laws for allowing them to work.
Even though the upgraded form of demanding dowry allows women to have a job, it still doesn’t empower them. Women are left with no money or choice of how to save or spend their money which is just the opposite of the financial independence of women. Because of this, many women fail to save money for themselves and for their parents. Many women who aim about helping their parents financially fall back because of this custom.
Why is it so difficult for society to understand that a woman has the right to make financial decisions? Why can’t society let women earn without any terms and conditions? Why must women pay a cost for being allowed to walk out of the house and be independent? And if women’s right to make financial decisions is curbed, can women ever be empowered?
Now let us address the elephant in the room- the custom of dowry. Why even after years of being criminalised is the practice of dowry relevant?
Rather than removing the practice from society, why are people finding new ways to defend it? Why should only the bride’s family pay for the survival and better future of the bride and groom? Why should only the bride’s family be worried about how their daughter will survive after marriage? Isn’t the marital families’ responsibility too to ensure the betterment of the bride and groom together?
Asking women to give up all the salary they earned in their entire life to in-laws as dowry is wrong on two levels. It supports the practice of dowry which is a crime and it also oppresses women by keeping them deprived of their rights. If it is the salary only that will ensure the betterment of a couple, then both bride and groom must invest equally. A bride shouldn’t be forced to give up all her earnings just because she is a woman. Abolish dowry. Abolish restrictions on women empowerment.
Views expressed are the author’s own. You can send your contributions to [email protected]