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Essay on “Dowry and The Modern Woman” Complete Essay for Class 9, Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.

Dowry and The Modern Woman

It’s been a while since a countrywide brigade—albeit small— of bridegroom-rejecting brides, flagged off by the petite 21-year-old Nisha Sharma, took the world by storm. Now that the dust has settled, it is time to examine whether the courageous stance of Sharma, Farzana and Vidya Balasubramaniam (the other two who called off their marriages at the last moment) was indeed a triumphant strike on patriarchy and social discriminations.

It is important to go back to a telling image of Sharma—with hennaed hands and a dowry of branded washing machines, refrigerators, air conditioners, music systems and a car in the background—as she announced that her protest was not against dowry per se but against the manner in which her future in-laws abused her father while demanding more. What stung Sharma was that her in-laws-to-be acted unilaterally against the spirit of a mutually brokered deal on the amount of dowry to be given. More dowry—that was the crux of the problem.

Again, most women who made news by cancelling their weddings, did so only because they didn’t agree to the excess of dowry. That dowry is being given and taken was not questioned by any of them. Their incomplete protests explain why the law against dowry is largely ineffective in India—it needs people to complain against the custom of dowry.

But who can stand up to the pressures of dowry today? Dowry lip is a skein that unites the country, from a 100 per cent literate Kerala, the economically developed Punjab and Gujarat, to a backward Bihar. In a television channel debate, while responding to a question on her excessive dowry, Sharma replied that families spend only on two occasions—marriage and house construction. The connection between a daughter’s marriage and the economic strain a family undergoes has been reflected in countless II stories and images of indebtedness in Indian literature, cinema and the media. Several films have shown the girl’s father placing his  pagdi (headgear) at the feet of the in-laws who threaten to walk out if their dowry demands are not met.

Today, the pleading father is missing. Instead, our young and modern film directors show marriages as affluent ceremonies, a naked show of wealth and greed. In fact, on the screen, the days of simple weddings are over.

Our talented advertisement creators slip in the ‘money-is-needed-for-her-marriage’ mentality in their campaigns. Most insurance company advertisements play upon the anxiety of the father – whether he can give his daughter a grand wedding and a huge dowry. His success as a father, the success of the marriage, all this hinges on the pot of gold he can provide. This anxiety about a daughter’s marriage has assumed a fever pitch in today’s liberalized and globalised scenario, where gilt-edged aspirations touch the skies and are not necessarily grounded in reality. The families of many grooms-to-be see dowry as a one-way ticket up the economic and social ladder. And more particularly, in these times of increasing economic uncertainties. Politicians, bureaucrats, engineers, doctors, executives and even unemployed men—all come with a price tag in the dowry market. At a recent workshop in Goa on the decreasing child-sex ratio in India, Arvind Kumar, Collector of Khammam district, Andhra Pradesh, stated that the current ‘rate’ of IAS officers in the marriage market is Rs 20 million

In fact large number of students preparing for civil services exams, keep the fat dowry among the most important, priority, after becoming a civil servant.

The market in fact, has turned the solemn marriage ceremony into a huge brand event. Parents vie with one another to display how many consumer brands they will gift and what a grand spectacle they will organize. If it was possible to quantify the business conducted by big Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) Companies in the context of marriages and dowry in India, the figures would reveal a lot.

For many years, experts have argued that since women are excluded from property rights, dowry amounts to their share of the property or streedhan (woman’s wealth). It is their due and they must have it. But dowry by itself has rarely offered independence or blissful marriages to women.

There are over 6,000 dowry-related deaths every year. The liberalized, consumer driven 1990s saw a surge in dowry related deaths—from 400 a year in the mid-80s to 6.000 a year in the mid-90s. But government records grossly underestimate dowry– related deaths (and other forms of physical and psychological) violence. Several activists and women groups claim that over 25,000 women are killed for dowry every year. Today, even South India reports a high figure for dowry-related death.

Social discrimination, patriarchy, consumerism, technology, violence against women—the cycle is only getting more vicious. It’s time for future Sharmas and Farzanas to abandon the soft focus on dowry. It’s time to abandon all those alluring images of a father bidding a bounteous farewell to his married daughter for love and for the family’s ‘honour’. It’s time to reject totally the widely-marketed brand called dowry.


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