"I have had dozens of men turn me down because of dowry."

Gunjan Tiwari

Even though dowery has been forbidden in India since 1961, the bride's family is still expected to give the groom's family money, clothes, and jewelry.

A 27-year-old teacher in Bhopal, India's capital city, has now started a petition requesting that the police carry out raids and station officers at wedding venues to put an end to this "social evil.".   .

Her petition, according to Gunjan Tiwari (not her real name), was inspired by her own experiences of having dozens of men reject her because of dowry.

The most recent incident happened in February when her father, hoping to find a match for her, invited a young man and his family to their house.

After her parents had greeted the visitors, Gunjan entered the living room carrying a tray that contained snacks and hot tea for the visitors.

She calls it "unnerving" at the time.

On the phone, she said, "Everyone is staring at you; they are all sizing you up.".

When and how Gunjan will appear before the guests has been carefully planned. Her mother thought her daughter looked particularly attractive in green, so she had chosen that color for her clothing. She also advised Gunjan not to laugh because doing so would highlight her crooked teeth.

Gunjan is all too familiar with the drill, having completed it six times in as many years. The inquiries they made about her background, employment, and cooking abilities were also common.

She had heard her parents asking the prospective groom's father how much dowry he anticipated before entering the room. They reportedly requested 5 to 6 million rupees (or $61,000 to $73,000 or £48,100 to £57,000). He jokingly said, "If your daughter is beautiful, we'll give you a discount," when my father asked him, she recalls.

The visitors questioned Gunjan about her crooked teeth and the mole on her forehead as the conversation went on, and Gunjan claims she assumed no discount would be given.

A young girl wearing a traditional bridal outfit at the Desert Festival on 29th January 2018 in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India.
Even though dowry has been forbidden in India since 1961, it is still widely practiced today.

After tea, Gunjan told the potential husband in a private conversation that she would not get married for dowry.

She informed me, adding that he had convinced her that he stood out from the other people she had met so far because "he agreed that it was a social evil.".

However, the Tiwaris quickly found out that Gunjan had been turned down.

"My mother attributed it to my opposition to dowries. She was upset with me and cut off communication with me for more than two weeks," the woman claims.

According to Gunjan, her father has spoken to "families of 100-150 eligible bachelors" over the past six years and has met with more than two dozen of them. Six of them have heard Gunjan present herself. She claims that the reason almost all of them failed was the dowry.

Gunjan, who has a Masters in mathematics and takes online classes, claims that she has lost all of her confidence as a result of these rejections.

"When I use my logical thinking, I realize that the issue is not with me; rather, it is with those who demand dowries. But I frequently feel as though I am a burden to my parents. ".

According to a recent study, dowries are still given or accepted in 90% of Indian marriages despite being forbidden for more than 60 years. Payments totaled one quarter of a trillion dollars between 1950 and 1999.

Even when parents of girls sell their land and home or take out large loans to pay dowry demands, a bride's happiness isn't always guaranteed.

The National Crime Records Bureau estimates that between 2017 and 2022, 35,493 brides were murdered in India for failing to bring in enough dowry, or 20 women on average per day.

The UN estimates that nearly 400,000 female fetuses are aborted every year using prenatal sex screening tests by families concerned that daughters would cost them dowries, according to campaigners, who also blame dowry for India's skewed gender ratio.

Gunjan claims that the only solution, in her petition to Bhopal's police chief Harinarayan Chari Mishra, is to raid wedding venues and detain anyone found giving or receiving dowry. She continues, "fear of punishment" will aid in ending this cruel practice. She met with Mr. Mishra last week to ask for his assistance in her struggle.

Gunjan Tiwari with Bhopal police commissioner Harinarayan Chari Mishra
Gunjan recently met with Harinarayan Chari Mishra, the police commissioner of Bhopal, to solicit his support for her campaign against dowry.

We are dedicated to putting an end to dowry because it is a social evil. Mr. Mishra told me, "I have ordered all police stations to provide appropriate assistance to any woman who approaches them.

He does, however, acknowledge that "police have their limitations, they can't be everywhere, and we need to raise more awareness on the subject, to change mindsets.".

Police can undoubtedly be of assistance, according to women's rights advocate Kavita Srivastava, but combating dowry is a difficult problem.

"India is not a police state, but we need to improve how the dowry prohibition act is put into practice. ".

Dowry, according to her, is frequently not a one-time payment for greedy grooms' families who continue to demand more even after marriage because "it's easy money, a conduit to get rich quick.".

Ms. Srivastava gives examples of women who experience lifelong domestic abuse and who were even expelled from their marital homes for failing to comply with their repeated demands.

She claims that young men and women must start standing up and refusing to give or accept dowries in order to combat the scourge of dowry.

Because "life's long and I can't spend it alone," Gunjan says she would like to get married, but she is certain that she will not pay a dowry.

But as time passes, her family's need to find a match for her only intensifies.

"Among my relatives, a 25-year-old woman is regarded as an old woman in the marriage market in my ancestral village in the Etawah district of the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh. ".

As a result, her father frequently peruses the newspaper's matrimonial sections and has asked friends and family to keep an eye out and let him know if they come across a potential spouse. He joined a WhatsApp group where more than 2,000 members of his caste share resumes for their kids from families similar to their own.   .

"Most people desire expensive weddings that cost at least 5 million rupees. My father can only afford half of that," she claims, adding that by insisting on getting married without a dowry, she has made life more difficult for her parents.

"My father claims that he has only been looking for a groom for me for six years. He claims that even after searching for 60 years, he won't be able to find me a match without dowry. ".

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