Indian Marriage and Dowry.

Recently I had a discussion with a friend who had gone to India to help pay for a relative’s wedding. She called me from India to tell me they had to purchase a motorcycle, a fridge, and furnish the groom’s home. I could sense the frustration in her voice as this went against everything she believed in. She felt like she didn’t have a choice. She had gone there to help pay for the wedding and that is what she had to do.

Against Dowry Campaign in India.

Although the payment of a Dowry was prohibited in 1961 by the Dowry Prohibition Act, it is still prevalent in many Indian marriages.   Dowry or “Dahej” is payment in the form of property, gold, money, or more, which is given by the bride’s family to the groom’s family along with their daughter’s hand in marriage.

We have all heard of women being mistreated in India because her in-laws felt that the Dowry was not enough; everything from verbal and physical abuse, to bride burning. There is this unspoken understanding within the Indian community that keeping your son-in law’s family happy will result in your daughter being treated well.

Against Dowry campaign in India.

It has been easy to turn a blind eye to this issue because most families understand this as the way things are or worse, normal. I always knew Dowry to be part of Indian marriages; however I had assumed that it only existed in remote villages in India. I was wrong. I have seen many people who are brought up in what is considered to be a modern city, such as Chandigarh and New Delhi that still accept Dahej.

This is not to say Dowry is only practiced by those who live in India. Many of us living in Canada, the United States, and the UK have been a part of marriages where we have experienced or seen the exchange of Dowry. As I see friends and family getting married, I realize Dowry is still a huge part of Indian marriages; we have just gotten better at hiding it. Instead of handing over large sums of money or property, we give elaborate gifts and jewels.

Nowadays I find the driving force of Dowry is mostly fear. A fear that the bride will be mistreated if her in-laws feel that the Dahej is not satisfactory. How do we break free from this fear and move to a place where the main focus of marriage is not Dowry?

What are we saying about women if we put a monetary value to her life? Is she only worth the sofa, land, or gold she brings into a marriage? Culture around Indian women and marriage has to change, not only in India but within 'advanced' first world Western countries. It cannot be that women are treated like things, given away with whatever Dowry can be afforded.