ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Sociology of Bride-Price and Dowry

Sociology of Bride-Price and Dowry Shalini Randeria Leela Visaria THIS article is provoked by Indira Rajaraman's article on the 'Economics of Bride-Price and Dowry', which appeared in these columns, and by the discussion which followed it (February 19, April 9. June 4, Sepember 3-10 and November 19, 1983). Neither Rajaiaman, who seeks to build an economic model of the presumed switch of "entire endogamous groups from a bride-price to a dowry system" (our italics), nor her critics provide any empirical data in support of their generalisations. On the basis of our data from north Gujarat. we have serious doubts about Rajaraman's premise that entire sub-castes had a bride- price system in the past, and have given it up in favour of a dowry system now Our interpretation of the census and the NSS data seems to invalidate her other premise that there has been a significant decline in female participation in the labour force. We also fail to see the causal relationship between these two premises as is sought to be established in Rajaraman's model First, we attempt to understand the terms 'bride-price' and 'dowry' which have been left undefined by all contributors to the discussion so far. We then turn to our own field work data on the scheduled castes of North Gujarat (We feel free to do so, because Rajaraman's model is neither region nor caste-specific .) Finally we look at the labour force data from the censuses as well as the National Sample Surveys and try to assess whether there has been any significant change in female participation in the labour force. In our view, the observed decline is an artifact to the definitional changes in the concept of work, which make the 1961, 1971 and 1981 census data non- comparable.

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