What A Woman Worth

IT bridegrooms, it seems, are no longer the preferred choice of parents hunting for the right matrimonial catch for their daughters in parts of India. According to marriage bureaus that arrange matches in Andhra Pradesh where the stock of the IT professional has traditionally been very high the economic downturn and state of flux in the IT industry is giving the jitters to parents of prospective brides.

The same fixers of alliances point out that this recent trend, which is not limited to Andhra, has also affected the position of IT professionals on the dowry ladder. They no longer command the stratospheric price that they did before. In the new pecking order, they are outdone by IAS officers who reportedly are worth about Rs 5 crore. If it weren’t an indicator of a serious social malaise, we could perhaps be amused by such reports. They only confirm what we have always known. Dowry is a deep-rooted reality in this country, and it has social sanction. All instances of dowry may not be coercive which have devastating consequences for the bride and her family but the voluntary giving of money and expensive gifts is common practice. The social obligation to gift voluntarily puts no less pressure on women and their families than when the gifts are a precondition of marriage.

As more women enter the workforce in our country and become economically independent, practices such as dowry which perpetuate gender inequality should be on the wane. Unfortunately, that is not the case. And it’s not just dowry. Disturbing sex ratio imbalances reflect serious gender disparities in our society. A recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health reports that the sex ratio is most skewed among those sections of our population that are much better off than the rest. The Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) Act, which makes sex-determination tests illegal, has had little effect. However, there are differences reported across the country; Punjab fares the worst on this measure while Karnataka comes out on top.

It is fairly clear that the economic empowerment of women alone is not going to further the cause of gender parity. It requires a revision in our collective social mindset, which can be brought about only through better education. Above all, there must be strict enforcement of laws, such as the Dowry Act and the PNDT Act. Without determined enforcement, laws are effectively toothless.

Comments: Subject : DOWRY – WHAT ARE THE REAL FACTS?

FACT 1 : Dowry laws in India are currently ONLY Misused, invariably by the dowry GIVER, ( usually together with legal harassment and media ostracisation ), to EXTORT MONEY from young Indian men, AFTER, or in the process of, DIVORCE.

FACT 2 : Dowry, is the predominantly favoured form of female family INHERITANCE in India [1], and it is a method of ‘EQUALISING’ with a groom of higher social status [2]. Dowry is a pre-mortem INHERITANCE of a female progeny and consists ONLY of movable property (Sharma 1984; Krishnamurthy 1981).

Dowry harassment of women and their families is a invention by feminists ( who are usually ‘failures’ as wives themselves ), against their in-laws. Since the legislation is resorted to by women who have already decided to leave the marriage, it does little to affect the cause of abolition of dowry. There are high rates of arrest under the anti-dowry law but low rates of conviction ( 2% ).

‘DOWRY DEATHS’ are purely mythical, and are in fact, suicides by wives, which are presented in such a manner as to punish an innocent male, at many places combined with elderly abuse [3]. Upto 65% of dowry death cases are false[4] Dowry statistics have been misused by various unscrupulous organisations to recieve funding, and to whip up anti-male sentiments in society. In another article in the same paper itself [5], the high rates of male suicides are pointed out. Most of these are due to the ‘silent’ harassment of males by their wives, who use them as ‘ATM’ machines! The threat of imprisonment of young males is repugnant, and must be immediately removed.

The media should create awareness of these facts, and encourage males to SPEAK OUT against harassment instead of suffering in silence, contributing to higher suicide rates.

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