Some young men from Maheshtala and Metiabruz are raising their voice against dowry through graffiti.
These men are volunteers for a women’s rights organisation and many of them have made time to speak up in their own way after completing their day’s work as daily wage earners.
The men are trying to initiate a change in their own families, too. Some of them refused to take dowry themselves and, in some cases, that led to problems in their families.
Writing on the wall reminds people of what is to be done, said a member of Swayam, an organisation that has been working to end discrimination and violence against women.
In its bid to end gender inequality, Swayam has included boys and men, too, in the fight.
“In India, the dowry system attaches a price to men based on their qualifications, which dehumanises them. We tell them that if dowry is prevalent in a community, it impacts everyone, including men. Because the men as father or brother have to arrange dowry to get their daughter or sister married,” said Amrita Dasgupta, director, Swayam.
Dowry creates a vicious cycle and many families think that because they gave dowry, they are entitled to take dowry, said a male volunteer.
Ekbal Hossain Khan, a volunteer, raised his voice not just in the community, but in his family, too, by saying no to dowry during his marriage.
“I went against my family and they said they were not asking for cash but furniture etc, which according to them was not dowry. But even that was dowry. I refused that and bought furniture slowly depending on my affordability,” said Khan.
His family had given dowry during his elder sister’s marriage, and marriage proposals for his cousin are price-tagged, too.
“I do not want to give dowry, but the challenge is to convince your family at a time when all proposals come with a price,” he said.
Director Dasgupta said the men were changemakers in their communities and it was remarkable how they made time to work as volunteers despite their financial problems.
For these men, it was not easy, at least initially, to come out and raise their voice.
Rahul Goswami, who works for Swayam, said that initially they had to face ridicule and counter-arguments in their fight for gender equality.
“We would visit homes and people would ask whether we had refused dowry ourselves. But there have been occasions when these people have turned around and come to us when their daughters have faced violence because of their inability to give dowry,” said Goswami.