Mathew and Rosamma

“Both of us feel that as a tradition, dowry discriminates against women. We see their value being compromised. It places a heavy yoke on girls and their parents. The practice of dowry can often lead to a lot of harassment and violence. The core reason behind the existence of such a custom is a low view of women, and we are against this value. We believe that both men and women are equal and there should be no business transaction in the guise of marriage.”

 

How long have you been married?
Mathew:
We have been married for 29 years.

Do you both come from the same community? Do you know the different practices that are prevalent in relation to gift giving at the time of marriage in your respective communities?
Mathew: We are both Malayalis. Ornaments, gold, property, money etc. are given mainly from the bride’s side to the bridegroom and his family. To be able to give such gifts is seen as a matter of prestige. The bridegroom’s family also makes demands for these things and, often, his marriage is fixed on the basis of these gifts.

What made you decide that you would not ask for dowry or give it? Do you think some factor in your upbringing had brought about this view? Or did someone inspire you towards this decision?
Mathew: When we got married, we did not look at things like each other’s familial or financial background. The main factor behind us getting married was the conviction we shared towards certain values, and that is why we did not care about dowry or gifts during our wedding. Our parents were used to the custom of dowry but they gave us the freedom to reject it. Both of us feel that as a tradition, dowry discriminates against women. We see their value being compromised. It places a heavy yoke on girls and their parents. The practice of dowry can often lead to a lot of harassment and violence. The core reason behind the existence of such a custom is a low view of women, and we are against this value. We believe that both men and women are equal and there should be no business transaction in the guise of marriage.

Rosamma: Actually, more than positive influences, the evil that this tradition brings about has made me stand up against it.

Were your parents in agreement with your decision?
Rosamma: No. In our culture, if parents do not give anything, it is a matter of deep shame for them. They think that sending their daughter without any money or property is akin to cheating the boy. But my husband and I made our stand clear to them.

Mathew: We were against not only dowry, but also against all the extravagance that weddings usually demand. My parents were not with me on this decision. They were concerned that their prestige might suffer a fall. However, we told them that it is not an occasion to show off, but a time to commit to a life of togetherness at the altar. It could be both beautiful and simple. Our parents were broad-minded so they ultimately stood by us.

What about your relatives?  Did you face any opposition from them?
Mathew:
There were some disagreements. In fact, at the time of our engagement, some of my relatives tried to influence the decision in favour of demanding a dowry. However, I made sure that no discussion about dowry would take place.

Did you ever rue your decision later in your marriage?
Mathew:
Not at all. We are very happy. In fact, we even shared and discussed our story with some of our friends and they were inspired to act similarly.

The boys get preferential treatment throughout their life. For the girl it’s just that one day of her marriage, the only day she’s valued and cared about. She wants that day to be perfect and memorable. Even if her father is bankrupt, she wants ‘the big fat Indian wedding’. What do you think about that kind of thinking on the bride’s part?

Mathew: Why she feels like that is because of the way women are treated in our society. This occasion might be the only opportunity she gets to enjoy some attention and get treated well. Therefore, we need to create families that would value both girls and boys equally. Only then would this kind of thinking stop.

What could be done to bring a check to this growing menace in our society?
Mathew:
Firstly, men should be strong enough to reject the offers of dowry that come their way. Generally, we see that they do not take a stand on this because, after all, this practice makes them receive things. Sometimes they are indifferent, sometimes they are greedy. The grooms have to take the decision to not receive dowry or gifts from the brides’ family. Also, we need to empower women so that they do not give dowry. Parents who have not taken dowry should share more about their decision with their children. Also, organizations and communities need to recognize and appreciate such stories so that they serve as a motivation for people to not take dowry.

Rosamma: Parents should treat both their daughters and sons equally, and they should divide their property equally among them.

What is your advice for the youth?
Mathew: They should take a strong stand against dowry and should avoid all material transactions in the context of marriage. Also, the extravagance and pomp associated with weddings should be done away with. Dowry practices and these extravagant expenses are linked. The youth should stand against such unnecessary expenditures and should insist on having simple ceremonies. This would help avoid making money or its transaction a crucial factor during weddings.

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