Two recent incidents gladdened the heart and gave hope that the happy trend might set soon as more girls get inspired by such stories. It is up to the girls and their parents to get into action with courage and faith in their souls- faith in themselves, faith in good values of life and the courage to condemn bad societal practices and fully reject them from their life. One story belongs to a lower middle class family with three daughters and two sons. For the family it was going to be the first occasion for marriage of the eldest girl. The groom was good and everything was almost settled when the boy’s father opened his mouth wide and demanded a handsome sum in cash. Before the gloom could set in the family the mother rose to the occasion taking a tough stance-‘sorry, no money will be given’. After the initial shock followed by some delay and deliberations the boy’s family bowed down and accepted the girl and the marriage took place with honour and happiness.
The other story is about an upper middle class family where the marriage was of ‘choice or love’ as it is called. In spite of the affair being a long standing one the inter-caste alliance was creating obstructions for both the families. Once the way was cleared by both set of parents, the happiness of the bride was short-lived as the boy’s parents started hinting and then squealing for dowry in cash and kind. Although the girl was shocked, she said ‘no’ to their requests and informed her parents that she would face the consequences whatever those might be. The boy’s side came around surprisingly and the marriage was solemnised with dignity!
Dignity is what the girls should fight for. They should make a complete rejection of dowry demands and refuse to buckle under pressure of their own parents and the groom’s parents. Girls who are well educated and have a sense of self respect and self pride could easily say no to such uncivilised demands and reject the marriage proposal. They could decide to work, earn and be independent and of course marry when they find a desirable match. Why should parents indulge in the sale and purchase of their children? Why should grooms come with a price tag and why do the girls’ parents willingly agree to purchase a human commodity?
The Dowry Prohibition Act was passed as early as 1961 under civil law and subsequently defined it as cruelty under the Indian Penal Code under section 489 A and later section 304 B was also enacted to take cognisance of dowry deaths. However, dowry still exists rampantly in many communities in India. Although condemned and banned it is still practiced blatantly in one form or the other thus helping the unjust practice to remain fully rooted in the culture. Some communities may have decided to do away with it completely but this may be just a small segment of the entire population.
It is a shame and an embarrassment for the nation and we should collectively condemn it. A civilised society is expected to evolve and grow up mentally and spiritually. Evolution brings with it refinement of thought and action. We do not seem to be growing up as far as our regressive rituals and cultural practices are concerned. Everything that is traditional is not holy, everything that is ancient is not wise, everything that is old is not gold indeed. We need to use our power of discrimination and weed out the unwanted, unjust and undemocratic practices.
Boys need to develop a sense of self respect and dignity and refuse to be treated as bulls in the cattle market by their own parents. Boys should grow up and learn to respect themselves and the girls. Boys need to have bigger and better egos’ with confidence in themselves and faith in their worth and competence. They should refuse to fix price tags on their foreheads the moment they become eligible for the marriage market. I have heard that there are differing price tags for different professionals such as engineers, doctors, government officials, and those in Indian administrative services take the cake! When government officials themselves indulge in unlawful activities and take dowry when it is banned they prove to set terrible examples for the public. We should indeed condemn ourselves and whip ourselves for such acts.
To begin with it is up to the brave girls to stand up to the challenge and refuse and reject such candidates in the marriage market in their entirety.
Published in The Hitavada – Women’s world – 05 May 2010.