DOWRY may not be a big problem for a groom-to-be in Malaysia but it can be costly in China.
The entire assets of a man and his family may be depleted when he gets married.
Many even have to borrow money from friends and relatives.
The biggest wedding expense is often the “bride price”.
In China, the standard dowry for a bachelor’s degree holder is 150,000 yuan (RM92,000). For a junior college graduate, it’s slightly lower at 120,000 yuan (RM73,500), while a bride with vocational qualifications usually requires a dowry of 100,000 yuan (RM61,000).
In the cities, men from middle-class families have to pay as much as half a million yuan (RM306,000) or more.
An oversupply of men is one factor that contributes to this scenario.
According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, Chinese men last year outnumbered the women by 32.66 million, which means there were 1.05 men for every woman.
Due to the country’s now defunct one-child policy, many parents consider the dowry as money for their old age because there would be no one taking care of them after their daughters are married. As a result, many of them demand large sums.
(Also known as the family planning policy, the one-child policy was introduced in 1979 to control China’s population growth. It was changed to the two-child policy in 2016.)
Some of these parents feel that they should get some returns from what they have “invested” in raising their daughters, including paying for tertiary education and grooming the daughters to become “good wives”.
In many cases, it is all about mian zi, a false sense of pride.
For the well-off, the dowry reflects their status.
Instead of putting aside the money, these parents use it to buy expensive presents for the newly-weds.
Unable to afford the dowry, some poor families from the rural mountainous areas have resorted to “buying” brides, most of whom have been abducted by human traffickers.
After the wedding, these women are confined at home or are tied up. They are assaulted if they try to escape.
On and off, there have been news reports of “missing women” saved from their husbands in secluded villages.
In most cases, these women have forgotten their real identities and suffer from mental illness after years of torture.
Hoping to curb these terrible crimes, the authorities in some provinces have come out with guidelines on wedding expenses, including setting caps on the dowry.
A community circular issued by the Hui’an sub-district office in Lankao county, Henan province, has sent netizens into a frenzy.
The nine-point memo says the dowry should not be more than 20,000 yuan (RM12,000).
Those who ask for more can be sent to the police station for investigations into human trafficking or cheating.
At wedding receptions, each table is only allowed to have two boxes of cigarettes and two bottles of liquor.
The cigarettes cannot cost more than 15 yuan (RM9) per box and the liquor no more than 30 yuan (RM18) a bottle.
The memo, which was posted on Weibo, the Twitter-like Chinese microblogging site, quickly joined the list of top 10 most searched posts and sparked an intense debate.
One Internet user using the nickname Yuvn67 argued that the authorities will not be able to control the dowry because the bride’s parents can always ask for larger sums quietly. If they do not get the right amount, they will not approve of the marriage.
The legal age of marriage for Chinese men is 22 and 20 for women. Still, out of respect, many adults seek approval from their parents.
Weibo user Jiang Li asked whether a marriage would be a happy one if the man had a huge debt because he had borrowed to pay the bride price.
Another person said parents ask for a big dowry to “chase away” prospective sons-in-law who are poor.
He asked, “If Jack Ma (the Alibaba co-founder) proposed to you but refused to give dowry, would you marry him anyway?”
Another post about an argument between a woman and her future parents-in-law has also sparked heavy discussions on the Internet.
The bride-to-be wrote that she was unhappy with the elders, who had arranged for six Honda cars as her wedding convoy.
The vehicles were borrowed free of charge from relatives.
However, the woman insisted on renting Audi A6 cars for 500 yuan (RM306) per vehicle per day.
“I have no problem with my wedding car, a Mercedes S class, and a Range Rover for the camera crew, but I am not happy with the Hondas. My (future) mother-in-law scolded me for puffing myself up, saying we need not spend unnecessarily on vehicles that are only used once,” she said.
“I will not compromise. I have downgraded my requirements to the lowest.”
On the same day, her post was read 100,000 times.
She seemed to have received much support from netizens who said they also wanted the best for their wedding because “you only marry once”.
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