AdSense Bar

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Bane shall become the Saviour

History and traditional wisdom teaches us that any idea, any action, any tool, any technology is almost always what is called "a double edged sword". Any idea which can be used for personal gain, can also be used by others on us for personal loss. Any science used for betterment of lives, can be equally used to take away lives. And one field of science more than any idea that has shaped and destroyed nations, lives and civilization over time is - Economics.

Economics and the pursuit of economic progress and prosperity have since the days of yore, made man fight with each other, ally with each other, device ways of progressing self faster and stopping others from progressing as well. But as with any mass applied science, economics has had many unpredictable side-effects on society. And in this blog, we shall delve into one of those side-effects that in today's world , in the first place, should not exist in it's entirety in the macro sense, and in the second place, should exist in a totally opposite way in the micro sense.

That side effect is - Dowry

Dowry is a practice whereby the family of the bride pays out several gifts to the family of the groom. In more passive terms, it is the property brought by the bride to the husband's family and house. In India, this practice has been prevalent since the days of kings (and maybe even earlier) spanning to the modern age. While in theory dowry is completely voluntary, in practice however, it is a much darker phenomenon. Irrespective of how dowry might have started off as or why, today dowry is pretty much a mandatory burden on the part of the family bearing and upbringing a girl child. It is majorly for this sole reason that female foeticide is such a sad yet true reality. Families in rural villages and even urban India abort a female child prematurely or have it killed at birth just to save on the crushing economic burden that the female child can potentially put on their heads. This perceived, and in many cases a very real, economic burden coupled with the globally adapted (though, personally speaking, an outdated view strictly from a social sense) mindset that the male child is necessary for the progression of the family bloodline and tree whereas the lineage breaks with the girl child since she's married off into another family, tends to put the girl child at peril even before the child gets to see the light of day outside her mother's womb.

This brings us to my first point which i elaborated upon in the second para - The Macro Picture. While in an "ideal" civilized society, this social evil should not exist, it is but also a reality that no society is ideal and thereby this evil has to be tackled on the ground rather than just blind ourselves to the reality and hoping it'll vanish over time. Dowry has resulted in a skewed sex ratio where males in a society far outnumber females. This may or may not be a global ratio,,but it certainly is in traditionally patriarchal societies like India and China. There are reports that in many villages in the north-Indian state of Haryana, there exists not a single marriageable female but instead has a smorgasbordial glut of marriageable men who have no choice but to either seek out females from other states or suppress their biological urges till the suppression is no longer required (read " Seeds becoming rotten in old age and 'transportation pipeline' no longer functioning"). Now of course the consequences of female foeticide which has all but wiped out a majority generation of females cannot be undone in a few days, weeks, months or years. A generational gap,,by very logic,,requires a generational leap to repair the fallouts of past mistakes. So for this skewed sex ratio to correct itself in the future, we need to start talking concrete steps now. Those concrete steps are to be a minimum 2-pronged strategically devised action where on one hand the masses are educated on the disastrous biological fallout of such an arcane and barbaric practice and on the other hand, this mutated economic burden factor has to be mitigated at first and nullified later so that female foeticide reduces if not completely vanishes. While the education of the masses will take several decades, the economic angle of it can be applied even now.

This brings us to my second point which i elaborated in my second para - The Micro Picture. The most likely question you, the reader, would ask me at this point is - How do we tackle a social problem from an economic angle?? Simple!! A social issue whose problems are caused by economics, also has it's solution in economics. How is that?? Very simple. Economics as those learned in the field would say is "a self balancing system". We see it all around us. A commodity goes into shortage, it's price goes up. And those seeking to profit from it's high price, supply that commodity which over time bridges the supply-demand gap, and prices come down. Now Now, i'm not crazy nor am i preaching human trafficking. What i am pointing out however is that with just one simple change of mindset and one change of action, this whole problem of dowry will be lessened to a VAST degree. First the mindset, change the line of thinking that girls are an economic burden. By the very sense of economics itself, since marriageable girls are in shortage compared to men due to the skewed sex ratio, girls become all the more premium in social value. Therefore from thinking that girls are a economic liability, the family of the girl should think the girl child is an economic asset. And as any asset whose value has risen, it should infact gain property to the family rather than lose it. Lost me?? In simpler terms,,the father of the girl child rather than give out dowry,,should ASK for dowry from the groom simply because by very numbers,,there are more prospective grooms than prospective brides. The day this idea lights up in the brains of the daughter's father, is the day the first step towards dowry eradication begins. But for this idea to really take root and be successfully propagated en masse, an change in action must take place. That change of action is the unintelligible hurry which the father of the daughter shows in getting her daughter married off in many cases. It's not unusual to hear about daughter's getting married off as soon as they reach legal age of marriage. This has to stop simply because it tends to show the father of the daughter as desperate, and a desperate man is prone to manipulation and psychological and/or sociological blackmail for eg the neighbours and relatives may start murmering about why the daughter is way past her marriage age (in most of india it's around 23-24) and start putting pressure on the father to get her married off. As if the father wilts under pressure,,he's most likely to get her married off to the first guy they find irrespective of what unfair demands he might, and probably will, place on the bride's family.

That, my readers, is my take on the phenomenon of Dowry and my two cents on how to tackle it. As you may have noticed and surmised that i have stripped away all aspects of social and political correctness and only looked at it from sheer logic and the best economic sense that I am currently capable of. Critics might say I have oversimplified the problem and thereby presented an impractical idea of it's solution. But i have learnt from history and personal experience that an idea by it's very nature SHOULD be simple. It is the application of the idea that need or need not be complicated to ensure the best benefit.

If you have any views, comments, suggestions or flames. Put them through

Powered by ScribeFire.