poetsthought's Diaryland Diary


essay "Break the Tradition"

Oct. 28th, 2003, Tues.

Opinion Essay

Break the Tradition

In February 1986, I was born in Calcutta, India, and in July of that same year, I was adopted by a family in the United States. At this time in India, female infants were the least wanted sex. With the social tradition of dowries, a couple in India was least likely to keep their female babies. Today, unfortunately, this public opinion still exists about the importance of dowries, thus the opinion of not wanting female children still exists. With new technological advances in ultrasounds, couples in India are abusing the use of technology to abort all female fetuses.

According to the social tradition in India, a girl's parents are required to have dowry of as much as $100,000, which is often ten times as much as their income, or even their entire income for life. Traditionally, the father finds a suitable groom for his daughter, whether by asking around or even by placing ads in the local newspapers. Upon finding the groom, the father negotiates a price for his daughter's dowry with the groom's family, who often insist on a list of actual things as well as the money itself. Then, when the wedding is planned, the groom's family usually has the most guests and often the soon-to-be mother-in-law makes last minute demands for more money, sometimes in cash. For years, parents save up to pay for their daughter's dowry, and very regularly, the mother-in-law will make last minute demands for money that the bride's family cannot afford. This tradition of dowries is against all governmental laws, but because it is such a strong part of the social custom, not one obeys the laws.

The ritual of dowries and the greediness of the mothers-in-law is a known fact in India. Each year, almost 7,000 women are murdered in dowry-related crimes. In Delhi, the maximum-security prison has a wing exclusively for the mothers-in-law and their collaborators. Human rights groups report that there may be as many as 25,000 women murdered in dowry-related killings, all because mothers-in-law and future-grooms want more money than the agreed upon amount. With such a rigid practice for dowries, soon-to-be parents have gone to the extremes in assuring their future child is a male: couples abort the female fetuses.

The choice of putting a girl child up for adoption has evolved into abortion of the said fetus. With new technology, cheap ultrasounds are available, allowing prospective parents the ability to learn the gender of their child. “You are having a girl,” resounds in their ears as they quickly make the choice to kill their female child in fear of the dowry system. The abortion of the girls has gotten so bad, there is a visible population imbalance, and the cheap ultrasounds to determine the gender of the fetus have been banned by the government. Available technology has enabled couples to pay to ensure the birth of a boy. This can be done in Bombay, at an IVF (in vetro fertilization) clinic, where embryo selection guarantees the birth of a boy. Because of the population imbalance, this, too, has been banned by the government.

Throughout the United States, the birth of a baby is welcomed, no matter the gender; each is allowed the same equal rights at birth. In India, the birth of a girl is looked down upon; it is an unhappy occurrence. Because of the social custom of a dowry, couples are going pro-choice and killing any possible female children. Slowly spreading, a great population imbalance can be seen, with twice as many boys being born as girls. The tradition of dowries is illegal, yet it still continues today. Slowly, women are going against the tide and calling a stop to this extortion known as arranged marriages. Carefully, but surely, Indian women are breaking the mold of their past, and are putting a stop to this economic hardship known as a dowry.

5:38 PM - 08.08.04


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