Social Security System an answer for dowry?
My thoughts were further strengthened by a wonderful article written by Janet Bagnell for The Montreal Gazette. She has written about a documentary that a Quebec filmaker Karina Marceau has made on Sex Selective Abortions in India. The documentary is an hour long and is available for purchase on http://www.pvpmonde.ca/. Janet writes:
Dowries are the main reason behind sex-selective abortions, said Marceau. The average dowry, she said, is about five times the average annual salary in India. In Canada, a comparable dowry would cost $300,000.
India's economic miracle is making the dowry problem worse. As society becomes richer, the demands increase. Poor families are crippled by the debts they have to undertake to find husbands for their daughter.
What are missing in India are public pensions, old-age security, fully subsidized health care and education, the speakers said. Without these public supports, the son remains his parents' sole means of long-term support. Without public supports, raising a daughter is, as an Indian proverb puts it, like watering the neighbour's garden - to no point. With pressure increasing on Indian families to have only two children, too many families want only boys.
That's the recurring thought process that we keep hearing of, isn't it? Daughters being the 'paraaya dhan' (someone else's wealth) don't deserve to be wasted money on. Therefore, it's better that they are not even born.
I wouldn't say that dowry is the ONLY culprit but it most definitely is one of the main culprits. Dowry needs to be done away with but, obviously, it's only getting worse. Ostentatiousness is only increasing manifold with the increase of wealth inflow. I recently had a conversation about dowry with a well educated young man from a small town in Bihar (India) who is now settled in UK. His younger sister, 23, is betrothed to be married soon. Therefore, he is in the process of saving money to help his parents pay dowry for his post-graduate sister. "Shouldn't you be speaking up against it?", I asked him. He responded with a shrug, "That's just the way it is. Never thought of debating it." Owing to his nonchalant response, we had a detailed conversation about the gravity of the situation. He agreed with everything negative I had to say about the dowry system but he still wouldn't be bothered to do anything about it. That's just the way it is for him and that might just the way it will be for his children too. Having said that, I must mention that he's a great guy. Just the kind you would want as a friend, a brother or even a father.
Given such attitude from even the educated and 'good' people goes to show that dowry is to stay. Anti-dowry laws were introduced in 1960s and they have had no effect. Dowry is still going and going strong. As Janet writes, an average of 15,000 Indian women a year are killed over their dowry. Most are burned to death in their kitchens, a method of killing which can be disguised as an accident. My naive assumption based on these facts is that dowry is here to stay for a while at least. With dowry, commodification of women stays too. With commodification, daughters being considered a financial burden is also a must. Why not try and ease this financial burden on parents by not only giving them financial incentives that government has offered to parents with girl children in the past but also introduce a workable social security system which includes 'public pensions, old-age security, fully subsidized health care and education'?
Perhaps that could work as a solution in combination with changing mindset and implementing laws as suggested in the previous post. What do you say?