According to the National Crime Records Bureau, the cases of reported dowry deaths in 2013 were 8083. There were 10,709 reported cases of dowry registered under the The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.Keep in mind, these are the reported cases. You can only imagine what the actual figures are. Which is why when Indian’s self-proclaimed (I really couldn’t find any figures to back this up) largest matrimonial site, shaadi.com starts promoting a Dowry Calculator on social media, you can’t help but do a double take. Had they spotted a demand in the market and decided to fill it? Could they really be so gauche and insensitive?
After all, anything seems to go nowadays. I read about a French dating site yesterday in The Indian Express, which has been built exclusively for people looking to indulge in a spot of infidelity. It’s called Gleeden – a blend of Glee and Eden. Why was it created? Because there seemed to be a market for it. According to a survey carried out in 2014 by the French Institute of Public Opinion, 55% of French men and 32% of French women surveyed had admitted to having been unfaithful. So, the creators of the site, made it for people looking for a little something on the side, no strings attached. And in deference to women’s emancipation, registration for women is free.
There are little attentions to details in Gleeden which are quite wonderful. In case your spouse enters the chat room, there’s a panic button which allows you to make yourself scarce. Also, your credit card doesn’t reflect that you’ve been to Gleeden but all transactions will appear under different names. Basically, it almost obliterates any chances of you being caught with your panties or pants down.
So, did Shaadi.com also notice a need in the market and decide that this could be a good add-on feature to offer to its marriage-minded clientele? It marketed it well enough, with a tweet which led to even veteran journalists going up in arms.
Was shaadi.com openly promoting dowry? Had they really not heard of dowry deaths? But it seems we needed to hold the disgust and dish out the praise instead, because when you logged on to the Dowry Calculator it was the perfect answer to the good folk who believe that their wives are chattel - and others who believe the same about their daughters. Let’s not absolve the parents of the bride over here. I’ve met enough people who put aside cars, jewellery, gold bricks, property – for their daughter’s marriage. Which they then dutifully invest in a suitable handpicked groom for their bitiya.
So what happens when you log onto the Dowry Calculator? A man appears on screen and you get to input your qualifications under the following categories.
For each thing you select, his hirsuteness changes and out pops a graphic signifying what you’ve chosen. This is what I selected:
What happened when I clicked Calculate Dowry Amount? Did a shower of gold bricks and women’s pictures pour onto my screen? Sadly – if you’re a dowry seeker - not. What I got instead was a slot machine calculator which kept multiplying till it stopped at 91202. I could imagine the dowry lover’s eyes twinkling or being disappointed at such a low figure. And even more so when the screen changes to:
Now I don’t know how many people will stop asking for dowry, simply because they saw this graphic. If you want dowry and believe it’s your birthright, or it’s your daughter’s lot in life to be able to afford the right man, then I doubt it will prick your conscience. Or stop you from asking for or giving dowry. But it is a worthy initiative and one which should be praised.
Yes, the naysayers will say that this is akin to Fair & Lovely cream washing away its sins by setting up the Fair and Lovely Foundation which empowers women through scholarships and some such. Although, Fair & Lovely’s coup would be if they could get Kangana Ranaut to be the Foundation’s brand ambassador, but I think they shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for that to happen.
The shaadi.com Dowry Calculator is a step above initiatives like the FAL Foundation (which should rightfully be called the FAIL foundation). By telling its clientele that they shouldn’t be asking for dowry, shaadi.com may well alienate or lose users who may not want to be judged or may not understand why they wasted their time filling in their qualifications only to read statistics on dowry deaths.
And that is the commendable part. That they’re willing to antagonise their own client-base. That it’s a well-made and fun interactive is a plus point, of course. Maybe next up they could have an option where you get to choose a partner of the same sex, only to have handcuffs pop up on the screen, and then ask users to sign a petition asking for the legalisation of same sex marriage and homosexuality in India. Although, shaadi.com will totally win me over to their promotion of arranged marriages and mail order brides and grooms, the day they have a built-in tool where as you put in a caste preference, your laptop will be rendered useless by a virus, which says “just joking”.
But till we reach such Utopian times, I think we should give credit where due. If this leads to even one less person wanting dowry, I’d say it’s a job well done.
Updated Date: May 25, 2015 19:13 PM