Should India Switch from Dowry to Bride Price?

April 1, 2023

Any young man, who makes dowry a condition to marriage, discredits his education and his country and dishonours womanhood.” - Mahatma Gandhi.

We all know about dowry system in India and several other countries. But, there are counties where the groom’s party has to pay a “bride price” as reflected in the following recent media report excerpted below.

China cracks down on costly ‘Bride Price’ custom to boost falling birth rate

China’s latest attempt at boosting its flagging birth rate is a crackdown on an expensive wedding custom. Betrothal gift, or caili, is a tradition where the groom-to-be pays a “bride price” to the woman’s family to demonstrate his sincerity and wealth, while also compensating them for raising a daughter in a country that has long favored sons. Almost three-quarters of marriages in China involve the custom. Families could be expected to pay tens of thousands of dollars, multiples of their annual income.

It isn’t the first time authorities have taken aim at the practice, which was featured in an annual central agriculture policy document this year for the third consecutive year, but there is now a renewed clampdown as China urgently tries to reverse its demographic decline. A faster-than-expected population drop-off means a shrinking workforce, falling consumer demand and growing strain on the health-care system.

Less than a month after China posted its first population decrease in 60 years, the head of the family development agency asked local governments to take “bold and creative” steps to encourage births. The increasing unaffordability of marriage, particularly at a time of slowing economic growth, is seen as one of the key reasons why fewer people are getting married and having children.

In January 2023, central Hebei province started cracking down on what it called “ugly marriage traditions,” which in addition to caili also include crass wedding games. A county in coastal Jiangsu province kicked off a campaign last month to look for “the most beautiful mother-in-law” who doesn’t ask for too much money. A town in Jiangxi made single females sign a letter in February promising not to ask for caili that’s too high, while the provincial capital is holding a mass wedding on International Women’s Day with the slogan: “We want happiness not bride dowries.”.

Authorities are trying to frame the practice as an antiquated relic that needs to be retired, but changing people’s minds may prove to be difficult.

In an acknowledgment of the resistance in parts of their community, officials in Fujian province said their campaign against expensive caili is going to be a “persistent and difficult war.” A local official in Jiangxi conceded that a hard crackdown would be impossible.

The subject, like dowry, is open to many views. What are yours? Your response is welcome in the format given below (Pl. scroll down a bit). Welcome to Reason again.


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By John B Monteiro
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Comment on this article

  • Rita, Germany

    Mon, Apr 03 2023

    Who says India is not rich?Only working class people dont have much money because they get less salary and mnaay of them spend their earned money on liqure.So at the end remain hardly for education and later to marry off a daughter in Hindus.Thank God christians are now facing a system where dowry is not there but gifts to daughter by money or gold.Naturally mother house doesnt send daughter without gold to save their prestige.There were times for them too to pour a high amount of money.In Shettys dowry iis very high.Many times uneducated girls are hard to marry off ,when boy demands ,car ,motor bike besides gold and money .When mother in law is not satisfied she sends back to bring money.It looks like girls Parents are a milking cow .When girl is educated now she chooses .When boy in Hindus is a medico or Engineer ,high demand for dowry.However Girls parents have to suffer .Previously it was still worst.Now mostly girls have learnt to say or bold enough NO .if boy demands too much.

  • SMJ, Mangalore

    Sat, Apr 01 2023

    India is not as much rich as China to follow such customs

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