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When Nakshatra goes out for a coffee with his mother, they’re both on the look-out for cute men. “Do you fancy that guy?” she’ll say.
Things haven’t always been this way. Growing up in a village, he became aware of his feelings aged 16. A year later, after a move to Mumbai, he told his parents he was gay. His mum said she wished he was dead.
Forget Angry Birds. Now you can play Angry Brides.
A new Facebook app created by popular matrimonial website shaadi.com lets players fight ‘greedy grooms’ who demand dowry – a practice that persists in India despite being outlawed more than 50 years ago. The game shows a woman with eight arms, each hand holding a ‘weapon’ such as a kitchen utensil or shoe.
Angy Brides is a take-off of the hugely popular mobile app Angry Birds, a game in which cartoon birds with attitude try to rescue their eggs from greedy green pigs.
In the matrimonial version, the pigs have morphed into dowry-hungry grooms, and the birds are brides battling to hang on to their cash.
In the first level of Angry Brides the dowry on demand is 1.5 million rupees (22,500 euros). By flinging her weapon of choice at three greedy grooms, a bride can lower the dowry demand with each hit. She gets more points for whacking a well-paid pilot than for a lowlier engineer. If she manages to reduce the dowry to zero, she can move up a level.
“Shaadi.com has always believed that marriage is an institution of love, where there is place for togetherness, mutual understanding, family values and emotional support, not for dowry.”
There is one dowry death every four hours in India, shaadi.com says, quoting the National Crime Records Bureau. Indeed, the bureau recorded 8,391 cases of dowry-related deaths and 90,000 cases of torture and cruelty towards women by their husbands or family in 2010, according to news agency Reuters.
Angry Brides is surely fun and as addictive as Angry Birds. On the day it was launched in mid-January, already 8,000 people downloaded the game, TV station NDTV reported.
But not everyone agrees that this is the way to highlight an issue as grim as dowry harassment.
“It might suggest that dowry is not a serious business”, says Gautam Singh Chawla, who works for an NGO for women’s rights in the state Haryana. This neighbouring state of Delhi is notorious for honour killings, which are sometimes dowry related.
“Dowry has been illegal for a long time. Authorities and NGOs should work harder in preventing dowry related crimes. Especially in villages where the people cannot even afford it, there should be more education and awareness creation that this practice is not done anymore. The authorities should firmly step up against cases of harassment.”
There are also those who stand up for the tradition. Newly wed Anjali Nair doesn’t think dowry is such a bad thing. “As long as it’s in line with what your family can afford, and there is no force involved, it’s not that different from a wedding gift. The groom’s family also gives the bride presents.”
But she admits there’s also a dark side to dowry. “It gets bad when the groom’s family starts harassing the girl for more than what was agreed on or than what her family can afford. That is a matter the police should take up.”
Plenty of people are only too keen to fling shoes at greedy grooms, however. The shaadi.com facebook page, on which the Angry Brides app features, currently has nearly 300,000 likes, and the figure is rising fast.
“Surely it’s mainly advertisement for shaadi.com”, says Meera Chauhan, who has played the game a few times without scoring many points. “On the other hand… especially because it’s such a popular matrimonial website, it’s very important and great that they clearly speak out against dowry,” she adds.
“In the end, shaadi.com is just a modern way of arranging marriage, and ‘modern’ families also practice dowry as well as harassment. Any method to give attention to this malpractice is welcome in India.”
Dowry: harmless wedding-gift, nuisance, or trigger for greed and abuse? What do you think?
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