Father Sez

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The Parents giving and giving - Some Westerners may have no idea….

Wednesday February 20th, 2008 by fathersez

The Honest Dollar wrote a interesting article on The Parent Trap. She was referring to parents dishing out funds that could have been put to use as the parent’s retirement savings.  

Some Eastern societies have a major sinister twist to this. Payments as dowry when their children get married. In India for example, parents with girls have to save like crazy almost from the day they are born. Not for retirement, not for the child’s future but to give to the groom’s parents and the groom.  This is quite a very sad situation.

Though the Government has very strict rules / laws against the practice of dowry, this practice goes on almost unabated. Many a tear jerker Indian movie’s plot is about the how the hero manages to get his sister married off against all odds, especially financial ones.

You can read a little about this almost dastardly practice here.

A plucky bride made national headlines when she took a brave stand and said “no!” to the incessant demands of her prospective in-laws. This earth shaking event seems to have even reached Oprah’s ears.

An Indian family with 3 or 4 girls is almost financially doomed, unless they are lucky enough to find prospective in laws and grooms who are sincere in fighting this practice of dowry. Or they are part of the Richie Rich.

Some families end up exchanging….we take your son and your daughter and you take our son and daughter. While many Westerners may express shock at such practices, this is just life or fate, or whatever they may call it in India.

I remember my mother telling me that many of the ladies in the village were extremely jealous of her..because she was just delivering boys. (I have 5 brothers and a sister). My late father was a very fervent anti-dowry man. None of us received dowry other than a token amount as per our religious custom. (All my brothers and sister had arranged marriages, except for me. But that may be another story.)

On the other hand, in Ghana it is the reverse. The boys have to pay the girls. Many of my single colleagues would tell me stories about how they could not afford to marry. And the girls’ parents would also prefer to see their girls single rather than to make the logical decision to cut the request for the dowry.

 Free Money Finance also talked about the cost of finding a mate. His article seems more based on the willing person splurging on flowers, dinners and other thingies to woo the intended mate. At least this is by choice.

I am lucky. In Malaysia, the dowry is still a nominal amount. I think when my wife and I got married, I paid her RM77, about USD23 at present rates. Some of the celeberity marriages talk about much larger amounts, but it is largely taken as show.

We have 4 girls, and I thank God that we are not part of the dastardly Indian dowry system.

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9 Comments for “The Parents giving and giving - Some Westerners may have no idea….”

by Lily
On February 20, 2008
At 10:58 pm

Thanks for mentioning my post!

Not to be all morally relativistic here, but Western customs aren’t exactly enlightened, either. From Slate:

Until the 1930s, a woman jilted by her fiance could sue for financial compensation for “damage” to her reputation under what was known as the “Breach of Promise to Marry” action. As courts began to abolish such actions, diamond ring sales rose in response to a need for a symbol of financial commitment from the groom, argues the legal scholar Margaret Brinig. To be marriageable at the time you needed to be a virgin, but a large percentage of women lost their virginity while engaged. So some structure of commitment was necessary to assure betrothed women that men weren’t just trying to get them into bed. (Implicitly, it would seem, a woman’s virginity was worth the price of a ring, and varied according to the status of her groom-to-be.)

Money and love (or at least marriage) create some pretty muddled situations, no matter which part of the world you’re looking at. :(

On February 20, 2008
At 11:06 pm

Hi, Lily.

I thought you were having a holiday!

You have made an excellent point. The sad thing about the dowry thing is the financial weight that is loaded on the parents, just because they had girls.

And good to see you back.

On February 21, 2008
At 2:00 am

Do you know anybody from India who paid dowry? I am not saying it does not exist. But it is not as big a problem as you mention it here. It is just the media exaggerating some of the very few incidents. Again, don’t make judgements about India without knowing what the truth is.

On February 21, 2008
At 7:14 am

Hi, Unequivocal,

Thanks for your comments. I was born in India and still have family there. I have my reservations on your statement that it is just the media.

On February 21, 2008
At 12:46 pm

Wow. My parents have given me a lot, but I hope that I won’t have to ask them for money in the future. Fortunately for both of us, my courtship with Micah cost far less than the $40,000 FMF mentions. But then that assumes dating a number of people and the whole process involving far more dinners, movies, and expensive stuff than we ever did.

I’m glad that your daughters will have one less impediment between them and any potential suitors.

On February 21, 2008
At 12:49 pm

P.S. One of my friends spent a summer in Benin teaching ESL. She said that her host family helped her come up with an answer to all the marriage proposals she was getting (mostly from mothers). It helped that the groom had to provide the dowry.

She would simply say that her father wanted 3 jeeps and $100,000. And that he was unfortunately out of the country and would not be able to negotiate for another 4 months. Apparently it worked a lot better than “I’m not interested.” It was ridiculous enough that the mothers left her alone.

On February 21, 2008
At 7:08 pm

Mrs. M,

Your friend’s hosts seem sharp thinkers.

Hope your friend enjoyed her stay in Benin. I like that country very much!


by FMF
On February 21, 2008
At 8:49 pm

$23? Wow, you got a great deal!

Thanks for mentioning my post!

On February 21, 2008
At 10:13 pm

Shhhh! FMF, my wife may hear you and may want to renegotiate. She is a lot smarter now after reading all the blogs etc.

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