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A village of eternal bachelors

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 6 Apr 2011 00:05 GMT
Author: Roli Mahajan
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SIYANI, India (TrustLaw) – Driven by a strong cultural preference for male children, the centuries-old practice of female infanticide and the more modern method of sex-selective abortion have resulted in a shortage of women that has forced thousands of Indian men into a desperate search for brides.

Siyani, a remote farming village in the western state of Gujarat, is a microcosm of the nation’s bachelor angst – thanks to the sharply imbalanced male-to-female ratio. In 2010, there were 107 men for every 100 women in India, according to the United Nations.

Girish Rathod, 35, is one of an increasing number of bachelors who can’t find a wife.

“I have been searching for a wife since I was 20 years old and still now I can’t find one,” said Rathod, a slight man with a tentative smile.

“I am not alone in my search for a wife,” he added.  “Seventy percent of men in this village are unmarried because we have very few women to choose from.”

The current shortage of women has also changed the social norms in other ways. In the past, the family of a bride would pay a hefty sum of money as a dowry to the groom’s family. Now, given the scarcity of women, the situation is reversed.  It is the groom’s family that pays and the price is going up.

Mohabbat Singh Chauhan, a 60-year-old community leader in Siyani, said the situation is causing a number of new social problems.

These include demands for exorbitant amounts by brides’ parents and, even worse, wedding scams where brides abscond with dowries worth several years of farming income, Mohabbat said, adding “This women shortage is destabilising our community.”

Naran Mori, a 35-year-old bachelor, said he has resigned himself to staying single since he can’t afford the asking price for a bride. In his community that ranges between 50,000 and 100,000 rupees or about U.S. $1,120 to $2,240.

According to Dhirubhai Borana, a 38-year-old man who became the envy of the community after getting married at the age of 20, the shortage of women is a man-made crisis that can only be solved through attitudinal change.

‘We always wanted to have sons and never wanted to have daughters. And today we are paying the price for the choices we made,’ said Borana.

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