I spent today going to a local healthcare facility where the Dr and a guy I met at the Meher Baba centre i’m visiting got a car to a local rural village to find out more about the standard of care administered to those in rural india, and to find out how they contract the main diseases etc.
Whilst there I also asked the driver (who has four daughters) about his daughters weddings, of which in India it is common practice as the father of the bride to pay for the wedding, something which is called a dowry.
Here’s a glimpse of the scale of weddings in India and what comes with having your marriage arranged for you.
I’m not going to go into the ethics of arranged marriages though at the moment, because, in all honesty I don’t know enough about them and what the girls think of them. I will tell you though that it is very normal for a girl to get married by the age of 20 to a man usually picked for her. I have come across instances where girls and boys have got married at 14(girl) and 16 (boys).
This is a conservative and very traditional society though so it’s not easy to find out everything needed to know.
Simply put it can be very expensive. In rural india where farmers workers can earn around 150 rupees a day some of these statistics will put things into perspective.
SIZE OF A WEDDING
The dad (and our driver) said that so far, two of his daughters have got married. He said, for the first wedding 2,000 people turned up, the second only 1,500. All of whom he was expected to feed and drink over the course of the celebrations.
He knew about 150 of them.
It seems to be customary though in India for weddings to be great communal gatherings and whilst 1,500 mouths is a lot to feed and can be quite a burden he semi expected to have to pay for a large amount of people. Even poorer families from poorer communities will often get their children to wait until there are enough couples to get married so that the cost stays low for each individual family, but that they can still celebrate aptly.
Together he said a wedding when put together can cost, dowry and everything else included – for 1,500 – around 100,000 rupees.
40,000 would go to the future husbands family, another 30,000 would go to food and drink for the 1,500 people, on things like pani puri (a traditional meal), rice, water etc and the rest would go on the day itself including buying a ring and necklace for the bride.
Whilst in todays money that is only about 1,145 pounds it’s still an awful lot for most indians to have to pay for one daughter let alone four.
This has lead to quite a big issue in India called infanticide. This is a practice where families have often killed or abandoned their children at childbirth, because having a girl is too expensive.
Of course it is illegal in India to commit infanticide but due to the population and the nature of the rural areas and levels of governance it is hard to keep a track of these incidents from happening.
It has meant that Indian hospitals now carry a notice by their entrances and exits which say that they no longer carry out checks on a babies sex, for fear that it’ll lead to abortions amongst other things.
According to a relatively recent UNICEF report, which the indian govt have criticised and disputed, there are apparently up to 50 million girls and women missing from India’s population as a result of systemic sex discrimination.