My parents come up with a “progressive” argument that giving dowry is like buying the groom whenever I question the custom of dowry. They argue that dowry does not demean a woman because it means buying the highest priced groom for the daughter. Dear parents, dowry is in disguise is not justified either. It is still a crime committed to demean women and harass them. And now men too.
The Dowry Prohibition Act was passed in 1961 which criminalised the practice of giving and accepting dowry. However, the practice continues across parts of India. According to the National Crime Records Bureau of India 2021 report, in 2020, 19 women died in a dowry death case and my native state, Bihar, had the second-most dowry death cases.
What is even more infuriating is that many people don’t consider the practice of giving or accepting dowry wrong. They rather twist the narrative and make it seem like a good deal. Since dowry was criminalised, it has adopted aliases like gifts for the newlyweds’ better future and whatnot. Some even label it as a necessary custom for a happy marriage.
Refusing to abstain from practising dowry only reflects society’s inherently patriarchal thoughts.
Things have barely changed and another instance that proves it is the recent row where a sociology book justified dowry. The book carried a statement that said with an attractive dowry, ugly girls can be married. Similarly, my family justifies dowry by saying, “Hum dulhe ko kharid rahe hai (We are buying the groom).”
But what good is a marriage which needs dowry to be secure? Why should anyone be bought or sold in the bond of marriage? Why should a woman have to pay a cost to be married to a groom? And why should a groom be sold off in marriage? Why can’t marriage be about a peaceful bond between two people and two families without involving any money or contract? Why should the idea of marriage be made regressive by various customs like dowry, kanyadaan and bidaai?
Dowry is a crime that cannot be justified with any excuse. Refusing to abstain from practising dowry only reflects society’s inherently patriarchal thoughts. In today’s world, where both men and women are flourishing enough, why do we still reel under the control of old patriarchal scriptures? Why don’t we scan through them and discard the views that are patriarchal and do not apply in the world where feminism is practised?
When we view wedding rituals as decrees of God, why do we objectify the bride and groom by practising dowry? Is it right to measure their worth in terms of money? What about their individuality or the love they share? Do those mean nothing in front of regressive scriptures and rituals?
Dowry reduces women to means of gaining money and not an individual with life and choices. Moreover, it is also not right to demean men for dowry to protect women. Men are not objects who are up for sale in marriage markets. So it is high time that parents of both men and women understand this and stop practising dowry in disguise. It is a crime and should be punished before it spreads as a norm, again. The norm that we need is to question dowry whenever it is practised.
Views expressed are the author’s own.