Are there ‘advantages’ to dowry? The study material reportedly distributed to sociology students at one Bengaluru college definitely seems to suggest so.
On Wednesday night, a Facebook post put up by a young woman said that students of Bachelor of Arts in St Joseph's College of Arts and Science in Bengaluru were given study material which endorses the system of dowry.
The college however initially refuted that such study material was given out. Later, in a statement released to the media, they said, "The matter is being investigated and we are trying to find the root of the problem. Such views have never been part of the college syllabus. Infact the department and the college are opposed to such obscurantist and oppressive patriarchal views as are contained in the page cited."
What exactly does this study material say?
It starts off innocuously enough. “Generally, though accepted as an evil practice, dowry has its supporters,” the page says, under the heading ‘Advantages of Dowry’. It then goes on to list these ‘advantages’, ‘according to them’.
"The marriage of ugly girls who would otherwise have gone without a partner is made possible by offering heavy amount of dowry," the study material reportedly given to students states.
"It is a useful and effective method of attracting good, handsome and sometimes unwilling boys for marriage," the text further states.
"Dowry increases the status of a woman in the family. As a woman brings substantial sum at marriage, she is treated well just for her economic contribution. It affects the love and affection her husband bears for her. A poor girl who does not bring huge dowry in her marriage does not usually receive the same attention and affection that is bestowed up on a rich girl," the study material states.
It also says that dowry provides "an opportunity for meritorious boys of poor classes" to pursue higher education.
It goes on this vein, and while these are listed as advantages ‘according to supporters of dowry’, the text still comes across as valourising the system.
The study material was given to sociology students of the 5th semester at St Joseph’s College, students confirmed to TNM.
"We don't know which book it is taken from. Lecturers usually photocopy pages from different books and distribute it to the students," a student, who received a copy of the material told TNM.
The college, however, refuted the allegations while speaking to TNM. Dr Berin, Head of the Department of Sociology said that the college "does not have a system of handing out study material.” (She said this before the official statement given by the college.)
"I don't know who started spreading this but in our college, we do not prescribe textbooks. Topics are discussed in class and students are asked to refer books. We have checked all reference books and none of them have the said page. Our college has certain principles and we stand by it. Students were not given any such study material," DR Berin told TNM.
However, the students had a different story to tell.
"They have given us a list of reference books but teachers always give us notes and handouts as study material. What will we gain from lying? We were also shocked that our college was giving us handouts with such information in it," a student said.
Another student who received a copy of the study material said that they do not have the freedom to protest against the material given by teachers.