How does the dowry practice work in India

Arranged Weddings and the Role of a Girl in India

“Raising a girl is like watering the neighbour's plants.” This is an Indian proverb and as a result, you usually find more girls than boys in Indian orphanages, or gender is determined by sex determination before birth and many female embryos aborted. The examination costs around 100-200 € but in the future the parents will save a lot of money if they don't get the girl, because the dowry for the wedding in particular is expensive and after the marriage the girl lives completely with her husband's family. From a purely economic point of view, bringing up a girl is actually a burden for the family. While the bride's parents often go into debt through the dowry, the groom's fortune increases through the dowry. Important elements of the dowry are, for example, traditional gifts such as silk fabrics, saris, jewelry and cooking utensils, but now luxury goods such as a scooter, a washing machine and a sum of cash also count. The dowry practice has been banned since 161, but it is still openly practiced.

The government publicly banned abortions back in 1994 and in 2002, because of the alarming increase in illegal abortions, increased the sentences to up to three years in prison and Rs 10,000 (Rs 1 = € 74), but that too had hardly any positive consequences. It is estimated that 11Mio. Abortions have been performed for the past 20 years and almost all of them have been girls' abortions.

This practice of course has an impact on the population statistics and so India is a country with a significant surplus of men. There are around 927 women for every 1,000 men. As a result, rape is not uncommon in India.

Even if it is not often, it does happen that unscrupulous husbands murder in order to obtain another dowry through a second marriage. Whereas a woman whose husband has died usually cannot marry again and does not receive any social assistance.

Many say women and girls are oppressed in the family. Statistics show that despite various government programs and women's movements, more girls are kept away from school than boys because they are supposed to help with the household. This means that the number of illiterates among the female population is higher than that among the male population. In India, too, there is a different kind of “hirachia” in the family than in Germany. The man is clearly the head and will make decisions. In most Indian families, however, women have healthy self-esteem and make themselves heard and space. When I visit Indian families, the main thing I notice is that the women serve the men, especially when it comes to eating. The women sit next to the man and keep serving him food and waiting for the man to finish. Then they take the men's plates away and only eat afterwards. I've mentioned this in some families, but it never seems to me that neither side regards it as unjust. Maybe it's just a different way of manners. Just as we wait to eat until everyone is seated at the table and not get up before everyone is finished, we eat here one after the other.

However, I experience the coexistence of husband and wife more as a kind of team because, as everyone knows, 80% of all weddings in India are arranged. In socially stronger and more modern families, a lot of value is placed on mutual agreement and it is more a suggestion from the parents, which daughter and son then accept or not. But when the age of 28 is exceeded, there is also time pressure here and you can be persuaded to marry. It often happens that the bride and groom see each other in person for the first time at the wedding and maybe only got to know each other via Skype or email beforehand.

In poorer families and socially disadvantaged families, the will of the bride and groom often plays a much smaller role. The parents decide to marry the children. You just come to terms with it. A lot of my Indian friends say that's ok. Of course they would like to choose a partner, but love marriages cause too many problems and that is why they are certain that they will marry for the sake of their parents. Love marriages cause problems because caste, religion, profession, skin color, social position ... have to match and otherwise there are often bureaucratic and social inconveniences.

For me this is unimaginable and when I see Indian couples the thought always creeps in that this couple probably did not arise out of love. It is a completely different way of thinking that reigns in our minds and that of the Indian people. I am impressed by how many marriages work so well and I often wonder if the spouses are happy.