Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The New Indian Dahej (Dowry) : Bahu with a Big Fat Paycheck

Before we packed our bags and left all this behind us in the dust. We had a place that we could call home, and a life no one could touch. 

There is a lot of hype and hooplah about an Indian actress putting on an accent and calling her country "regressive" and "hypocritical" and calling the state of its women "depressing". While the papers are full of hate columns, somewhere in the corner is another column detailing the shocking statistics of domestic abuse of women in the country. Apparently we are the country with largest crime rate against women within the "safety of 4 walls of her house". And these are just the official statistics, for every one reported, there are several that go unnoticed. As an educated, independent woman of the 21st century, I have seen both sides of the coin. The life of freedom that a new age Indian woman enjoys and the abuse and ill treatment that Indian women have been facing for centuries. While the economic status of women has changed over the years, I think the condition and position of women has not really changed. Although more and more women today are juggling their personal and professional lives with great elan, they still are victimized by the same problems that their mothers or grandmothers faced. The percentage of women taking active part in the economy might have gone up but the percentage of crime against against women has not decreased.

Even today, the problem of dowry and domestic abuse is no stranger to most women. While in the past, a woman was  expected to fulfill the greed of her husbands family using her parents money, today the same greed is expected to be fulfilled by her earnings. As far as the man's family is concerned, she is the source and because traditionally a wife is expected to fulfill the demands of the husband and his family any failure to do so will put her on the guilt trip. In more ways than one a womans salary has become her nemesis. It is practically the new age dowry. She is tactically or violently exploited to meet the greed of her in-laws and she is rather helpless as she has no legal protection from the law. In case she protests, the society sees her as a selfish person with no concern to the well being of her family, a woman with no values of sharing whereas the reality is very different. Unlike in the past where it was her family that had to carry the burden of the son-in-law's greed, now the girl herself has to earn and save up for those EMIs for cars and sites. The boy loses nothing whereas the girl is left behind where she always was - helpless, dependent on the mercy of her husband and his family for her living although she is herself the provider for her family. Just goes to show that merely employment of women does not equal economic freedom for women.

Keeping in mind the changing times, its time we accepted the fact that a woman's salary has become the new age dowry and now is a threat to the very purpose it was supposed to serve - economic independence. Its also time the legal system in India recognized this change and made amends to its laws to protect its bahus from this kind of dahej.


  1. It is this type of post that gives us pointers about which way the women's movement is going next.

    Now a woman having her own job and contributing to EMIs has also become "dahej".

    1. If woman contributes to family by household chores, you say its patriarchal slavery.

    2. If woman contributes to family by bringing money from parents, you say its dowry.

    3. If woman contributes to family by working outside the home, you say its "new dahej"!

    So, what option does that leave? The wife should be asked to sit at home and never lift a finger while other family members go out to earn money AND do all household chores.

    And of course, lets not forget, said wife will get 50% of what last 10 generations of family have earned if she chooses to have divorce.


  2. Hi,

    I am not saying that a woman should not contribute monetarily. All I am saying is she should contribute out of her own free will and should not be forced into it. When she goes out there and earns, she should at the very least have the peace that the future of her relationship/marriage does not hang on that paycheck.

    As for your 3 questions, I think all women's movement has been about how a woman is treated and how she is exploited rather than about stopping her contributions to the family in any way. And for dowry, I firmly believe it is a social evil and see it from just that angle. I do not really see how it can be called a necessary "contribution".


  3. Hi,
    Thank you for your response. I am very interested in your definition of a woman contributing out of "free will".

    When you buy an apple, you cant pay whatever amount suits your "free will". You have to pay
    what the shopkeeper asks. If you dont like, find a different shop. Nothing unfair here.

    Same with the family. If you are not a child nor disabled by age or disease, you MUST contribute.
    And not any random amount you choose from "free will", this amount should be commensurate
    with the needs and expectations of the family.

    Sorry, but wife has no moral right to blow up her salary on frivolity if husband and rest of family
    dont approve. Money earned by wife belongs to her husband too (and vice versa).

    Surely you see why people will say you are suggesting that working women should be free of
    responsibility; they can throw a few crumbs towards the family as and when they feel pity.

    Nobody is saying she should be beaten up or abused if she refuses to contribute. But yes, if she feels
    like she cannot contribute equal to expectations, she should walk out of the marriage.
    Without taking with her 50% of what the husband's 10 generations have earned, of course. Fair?


    1. Dear AB,

      So is the woman expected to "buy a marriage" at fixed price like she buys an apple????? For a woman is marriage any non-bargainable commodity for which she has to pay not just with her lifetime but also money? Is a wife just a robot for doing fixed amount of "contributions"?

      In my case as with the case of many other working married women, our parents worked really hard and made umpteen sacrifices to give us a good education. And many of us landed a job on basis of the education we had. Now after our marriage we are continuing with our dual roles of a homemaker and a working professional and yet how does this money become the sole property of the husband and his family? What about the girl who's working hard? Why does she not have a say in deciding what is frivolous and whats not when her husband and the rest of his khandaan have "moral right" to blow up her salary on their frivolities? Since she is the one who's earned it, dont you think its just fair that she decides what she wants to do with her money?

      As for walking out of marriage, a marriage has to be about loving and caring and sharing and being there for each other through the ups and downs of life. If one expects the wife to get out just because she cannot meet the expectations of her husband- realistic or otherwise, then yes she should definitely walk out because she deserves so much better than the husband she has.

      When you talk of 50% of husband's 10 generations earnings, I believe you are speaking of a wife's right to the husbands inherited property that is being proposed. Like any other law in our country which has done very little to change the sorry state of women, I am sure this will prove to be just as ineffective. To the best of my knowledge, this decision to award a share in her husband's property is left to the court based on the merit of every individual case. In the absence of a law enforcing it, women who might actually benefit from it will be close to null. But what I dont understand is, how does it become a moral right for the husband and the rest of his family to take wife's earning but its unfair if the husband is expected to pay only half of what he has inherited, not even earned.

      Do ponder over and let me know!!!


    2. Dear Danita,

      1) "Is a wife just a robot for doing fixed amount of "contributions"?":

      Just as much as her husband is a robot who is expected to contribute. Nothing more, nothing less.
      Yes, you gotta earn your keep. True for the husband. True for the wife. I hate a lazy man who
      sits on his couch all day. I hate a lazy woman just as much.

      2) "In my case as with the case of many other working married women, our parents worked really hard and made umpteen sacrifices to give us a good education."

      Is there any reason to believe the same does not hold of working married men?

      3) "how does this money become the sole property of the husband and his family? What about the girl who's working hard? "

      Nobody is talking of sole property of husband and his family. Its all owned jointly. The wife enjoys a legal right to marital property....and now a legal right to what 10 generations of his family have earned...

      My objection is just based on this: look at the examples you gave for "new dahej": EMIs? Do you see
      any moral reason why the husband's salary should be used to pay EMIs and not the wife's? If the man is paying EMIs, would you call it "reverse Dahej"? Whats wrong with wife paying EMIs?

      All I am saying is that the husband is just as entitled to his wife's money as the wife
      is entitled to her husband's. Nothing more. Nothing less.

      Do ponder and tell me if you find this an unequal arrangement.


    3. Hi AB,

      Let me give you a common situation that happens:
      H and W are married and live with the H's family that has H, his parents and siblings. While both the W and H are contributing to the expenses, the W has additional responsibilities of household chores. In-laws decide they want to buy a house. They plan and buy the house based on their wishes and comfort. They splurge and as a result, the W is left with a huge EMI to pay off that leaves her near penniless. She is again dependent on the mercy of her H and ILs to her everyday living and needs. She has no say or no freedom, as she has no money. Her position in the house is nothing more than that of an ATM repaying the loan for the dream house of her inlaws while she withers handling the dual responsibilities of the house and her job. Now she cannot quit her job even in the worst conditions, cos she has the financial burden that she never wanted, she can do nothing for herself cos she's penniless inspite of her huge paycheck. Now quitting her job would mean the end of her marriage as she is solely the provider here and nothing more and when the marriage is over she has no investments or money to fall back on as all this is spent on the dream house of her H and the rest on his family. Infact managing a lawyer is also an uphill task, being able to see a counsellor for getting help with the trauma is a luxury. The H on the other hand has his money, plans his investments, has no plans of taking on the household chores.
      What is fair in the whole situation above? Had the same desicion of buying a house made after taking into consideration the W's wishes and the amount she was willing to contribute the situation would be different. The W would feel like a part of the whole process and could decide how much she could contribute. If the whole process involves respecting the W's wishes and needs - whatever they might be, not simply dismiss them as frivolous, then it would be a constructive decision and nobody would have a problem with it. But when these expenses to please a persons greed are just shoved down a woman's throat, they become harassment much like dowry is.

      The whole problem stems from the attitude with which the W is treated. If she is treated like an expense commodity like an apple or treated like an investment bond with good ROI then there's a problem. A wife is a human with her likes and dislikes and wants and needs and deserves to be treated as such. Nothing less. And a marriage is a human relationship not a business profit making venture.

      For the problem of H having to part with his property, then I do not see much wrong with it. A marriage is a commitment where each has made a number of compromises and sacrifices and if the H has broken the promise he made for a lifetime, it is only fair that he is expected to at the very least help her in starting out fresh. In the society we live it is a challenge for a single divorced woman with or without kids to move on in life, especially with all the stigma that the society attaches. This share should provide her the required resources to reduce the challenges that she already faces.


    4. Madam,
      I am telling you again and again. What kind of a sensible person would support a man buying a house without consulting his wife? See, all this stuff was never there in your original post. My problem is with the fact that you are taking a woman paying EMIs as "prima facie" evidence of "new dahej". According to me, that is absolutely outrageous.

      My bottomline is that if you are talking of "new dahej", you implicitly want it to be criminally punishable, just like the "old dahej" (and it should be!). So, my main concern is what you will consider legal evidence for "new dahej". You seemed to suggest that a woman paying EMIs is in itself evidence for "dahej" and you should understand that this sets off all sorts of alarms.

      Surely you know that 498A Dowry laws basically operate on a "guilty until proven innocent" basis. On a mere assertion of the wife, a man and his whole family can be put in jail in a moment. Abuse of this system is absolutely rampant. As such, you can imagine why I, as an Indian man, feel I am being targeted when I hear a feminist talk about "new Dahej". In my original comment, I talked about what "the women's movement will do next". It is this fear that I write from. Will this "new Dahej" be criminalized next? And will the standard of evidence to prove "new Dahej" be set merely at "wife paying EMIs"? You see why I am worried you will now have men being dragged to jail simply because a wife paid an EMI?


    5. Hi AB,

      I am not speaking of an ideal situation where man and his family respect the wife. Like I said before if the wife is willing to take on all expenses then thats her choice and there is no problem with it, but when the same is forced out of her either tactfully, emotionally or physically then its harassment.
      If somebody would tell the wife this EMI is like an apple at the shop, either you pay full price or walk out of the marriage that is harassment for me.
      As for legal aspects, I think laws in the country do awfully little to protect women from harassment and fares equally bad in punishing the perpetrators. We are a country where a bride is burnt every hour for dowry whereas the conviction rate is dismal varying from 0.5% to 15% in some states. When proving a crime committed itself is as difficult as climbing the Everest, I am not sure how long any false case might stand.
      I think dowry is a problem that cannot be solved by laws alone till the attitude of men towards their wives do not improve.
      If someone is being wrongly accused of something he did not commit, then it is sad because harassment of law is only going to further weaken the already weak conviction rates.


    6. AB,
      The wife is taking up the high-risk, painful contribution of carrying & bearing the child(ren). Where are you accounting for that?

    7. >> And not any random amount you choose from "free will", this amount should be commensurate
      >> with the needs and expectations of the family.

      Yeah right, and every night the man spends with his wife, he should also pay her what she expects. Duh.
      If you are making the wife "pay" for her stay in the house, the husband also should pay for every service - food, housekeeping & more - he receives from the wife.
      Actually it should be more. Maids & cooks are safer - they usually don't get beaten up or threatened or harassed by their employers. But wives will have to face all those, and take so many precautions and effort to ensure she doesn't cross her husband's terribly fragile ego (he won't have ego problems with maid/cook. Only wife needs to be dominated & he should have some satisfaction that she is under his foot), and please his whole family too (else his ego will boil - "how dare you didn;t do what MY folks like?"). So, if I have to be calculative like you are, I'll have to say that the wife should receive a much higher compensation than what a quality maid service + quality cook + you-know-what + hospitality executive receive together, since she has to pander to all those other ego issues as well.

  4. HI Condemned/AB ,
    Let me put it in perspective for you .

    Regarding Financial Contribution :-
    In a Joint family all the expenditures must be shared by the members including the DILs. That is totally fine.But what is not fine is when all of DILs salary is taken by PILs and investments are made never with DIL as a joint holder . When DIL is made to pay for EMIs of things not needed by her like a Car purchased by younger BIL , or made to spend on luxury vacations while she has to ask for permission to buy even the smallest of the things . So sharing common expenditures is fine but after that if any member wants a luxury purchase they should manage as per their own earnings.After contributing the desired amount rest of the salary should be her OWN business . Confiscating all of someones salary and then giving her a monthly allowance is just plain wrong and is coined as new Daheej.

    These also must be divided equally among all (Including MEN) members of the family. If someone is not contributing Financially their responsibility of household chores also increases. for Eg If husband and wife are earning and running the family financially then expecting the DIL to come home and cook/Clean for whole family is SLAVERY . These responsibilities can be taken on by members staying at home the whole day . All men should contribute to the CHORES of the house as well in place of feeling they should be served like a King . Coz the DIL also is working equally as hard . MIL should not cry that she doesn't get a helping hand in cooking as she is not giving a helping hand while earning .. Or just get a maid if its soo much problem ..

    ABOUT bringing MONEY from Parents :-
    It is plain dowry nothing else. If she is marring into a family she is coming as a person who will share joys ,happiness ,contribute in many ways , act as a life partner to her husband ..So getting money from parents is wrong .. If the couple needs money they can earn on their own . Extortion from girls parents is just a degraded action .

    Obviously all above have exception when ppl do things with own free will .Like if parents want they can gift kids whatever they want to ,or a working DIL or son can come home and cook something for the family as a surprise or just take them out .Or Can buy the new TV everyone always wanted . BUT THIS SHOULD BE A FREE AND JOINT Decision of the couple and not a forced one .

    I hope you have now understood the meaning of DOWRY ,NEW DAHEEJ ,SALVERY, If not feel free to post here . We all are here to help souls like you understand the meaning of EQUALITY and BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS.

    1. Dear, MBAPOWER,

      Please dont get so angry. I was reacting only to the post above, not the situations you described.
      Here is what Danita wrote:

      "Unlike in the past where it was her family that had to carry the burden of the son-in-law's greed, now the girl herself has to earn and save up for those EMIs for cars"

      I see no mention of brother in law or parents in law in there. The only person mentioned is the
      son in law and I see no reason why the husband cant have moral/legal claim to wife's salary, in
      EXACTLY the same way wife has moral and legal claim to her husband's earnings. Apparently,
      if a husband believes he should have a share in wife's salary, he is "greedy".

      The situations you describe are certainly abusive in nature and I do not support such situations.
      However, such situations were not mentioned in the original post to which I was replying. Since I
      do not currently own a time machine, you must excuse me for not knowing in advance what
      situations you planned to write about later when I was posting my comment yesterday.

      In case you plan to bring up other kinds of evil that were not mentioned in the post above,
      such as rape, kidnapping, murder, terrorism, etc, I condemn them in advance for your mental


  5. Thankyou for putting things so clearly MBAPOWER :)

  6. Brilliant! Agree completely!

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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