In 2006, I was assigned a four-part series on the horrific gender discrimination against women in India and how the massive aborting of girls has resulted in skewed gender ratios (as low as 814 girls for every 1,000 boys resulting in a gap of 43 million when I was there). It ran in the Washington Times several months later.
Sabu George, an Indian activist who was passionately against the aborting of females, showed me where to go in India to report on this phenomenon. The first place he sent me was to a Sikh wedding (pictured above) several hours north of New Delhi.
There, I saw the stash of presents (a refrigerator, TV, clothes for the groom, DVD player and washing machine) for which the bride’s family had no doubt gone into debt to provide as a dowry for their daughter. More than one wedding can ruin a family financially and I began to see why Indians choose to abort a second daughter when they have the chance.
Medical clinics were very open about the practice, saying in their ads, “Better 500 rupees now (for an abortion) rather than 50,000 rupees later (for a dowry).”
Although dowry began as a Hindu custom, it’s evolved into something all religions take part in across India. And what happens if one family decides that the bride’s dowry wasn’t “good enough”? This has been known to turn into a life-and-death subject.
Which is why I was interested in Al Jazeera’s recent story about how Muslim Indians are finally saying “no.”
While in India, I asked someone if there were any religious groups that didn’t allow dowries for their followers’ weddings. I was told that Christians scored the best on this, followed by the Muslims. Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and everyone else had pretty much bought into the system.
However, according to this site and this (dated) Christianity Today piece, churches were just as complicit. Only this 2019 case study suggested that Christians were any different; in fact one group had reversed the dowry system into a “bride price,” which is what the groom’s family had to pay for the bride.
I’ll be interested to see how far the Muslims get with their guidelines, as it requires creating a new culture around simple weddings in a Hindu society where wedding bashes are a fixture.
The Indian government outlawed dowries in 1961, but that law is widely ignored. This article tells how the system popularizes child marriages because the younger the girl, the less dowry the bride’s family has to pay. Not surprisingly, India leads the world in child brides.
This 2017 piece in the Guardian also says that Indian Muslims are leading the way in disallowing dowries.
If Indian Muslims get rid of this hateful custom, they will most certainly be blessed, their unbelief in Christ notwithstanding.
Christian Indians need to get on the ball.
Note that, so far as Moses is concerned, the groom should pay the dowry to the bride’s family, a guarantee to protect the bride in case the marriage breaks up.
Also see from Gary North:
Daughters, Weddings, and Peer Pressure: How to Reform an Old, Rotten Tradition
Daughters are liabilities, compared to sons. They shouldn’t be. .
And check out Chapter 49: Bride Price, in Christian Economics: Scholar’s edition