Site aims to kill off the dowry

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 October, 2007, 12:00am

Disgusted by 20 women being murdered every day in India in disputes over dowries, idealistic men and women are going online to declare 'I don't want a dowry'.

A new matrimonial website contains the profiles of eligible men and women looking for a partner. But's other purpose is to kill the age-old practice of giving dowries.

The doctors, engineers, IT professionals and executives who have registered want to lead by example.

'Everyone always talks against dowry in the abstract but when it comes to their own wedding, they go ahead and accept it,' said Satya Naresh, 34, the website's founder.

With more than 6,000 people registered in south India, Mr Naresh is trying to publicise the site in the north. He decided to create the site after realising matrimonial sites catered to all kinds of people but not those who were against the dowry.

A shambolic turn of events at a friend's wedding was another catalyst. Disaster loomed when the bridegroom's parents threatened to call it off over an unexpected shortfall of 10,000 rupees (HK$1,970), even though the bride's parents had already spent 120,000 rupees.

'I don't like marriage being treated like a business relationship,' said Mr Naresh.

Gaurav Singh, 30, a call centre worker in Hyderabad, registered on the site after an old college friend of his was tormented by her husband for more of a dowry.

'I wanted to draw the line. I have two sisters. It makes me sick to think that they have no value as human beings unless they go to their husband's home with flat-screen TVs, a car and washing machine, and tonnes of gold jewellery,' Mr Singh said.

Mr Singh's parents were none too happy with his decision. As a graduate and professional, Mr Singh could expect a handsome dowry.

The dowry is still a deeply entrenched custom that can push the poor into debt and ruin.

Farmer Mohammed Khan borrowed 50,000 rupees from relatives for his daughter's dowry last year but the bridegroom's greed exceeded Mr Khan's modest offering.

'He started demanding a Santro car. I don't even have a scooter myself. He send my daughter back to me ... I've wasted all that money,' said Mr Khan, who has three other daughters to marry off.