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Online dowry calculator sparks controversy in India

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Politicians in India are calling for a dowry calculator website to be shut down. But its creator remains unfazed, claiming it's a satire on the practice of dowry.

An online dowry calculator website is at the centre of a controversy in India after its creator refused to take it down following calls from politicians for action against the website.

The website calculates the amount of dowry a prospective groom deserves based on his age, caste, profession, any previous marriages etc.

Although the website has existed for over eight years, it has come into the spotlight after a politician from India’s opposition party, the Indian National Congress tweeted calling on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and India’s Women and Child Development Minister, Maneka Gandhi, to take action.

“Someone just brought this site to my attention. Absolutely shameful! Let me remind the developers that giving or taking dowry is illegal in India. I urge the @MinistryWCD, @PMOIndia to take immediate action against this,” tweeted Jyotiraditya Scindia.

However, the creator of the website claims it's satire.

Tanul Thakur, a 29-year-old freelance journalist and film critic has refused to take down the website.

“I am surprised that Jyotiraditya Scindia and Maneka Gandhi were confused that the portal promotes dowry. Had they gone through the portal or clicked on the parameters, they would have surely ascertained that the portal is not promoting dowry but is a satirical take on such prominent social evil,” the Outlook magazine quoted Mr Thakur as saying.

According to reports in the media, Maneka Gandhi wrote to the Information & Technology Minister, recommending blocking the website and taking legal action under the country's anti-dowry law.

Dowry cacl
Dowry Calculator

But Mr Thakur remains unfazed.  He says he doesn’t plan to make any changes to his dowry calculator which is “dedicated to all the matchmaking aunties of India” and claims to calculate the “current dowry rate” besides offering suggestions on how to achieve one’s “dream dowry”.

In calculating the dowry, other factors are also taken into account, including the skin colour of the groom - one of the options in the drop-down menu is ‘pitch black (not visible on a moonless night)’.

Dowry has been outlawed in Indian since the 1960s but it continues to remain prevalent and is often thought to be the primary reason for domestic violence, in some cases leading to the death of the bride.

Mr Thakur says he had been advised by his well-wishers to include a disclaimer upfront announcing it’s a satire.

"There is dumbing-down of entertainment in the country. Anything has to be flattened down and to be served on a platter to the masses for approval. I am not going to do that. I won’t put any disclaimer. I won’t bring down the buckle as I feel satire is evident," he is reported to have said.

Last week, an Australian Federal Labor MP called for outlawing the dowry practice in Australia which he said was rife among the immigrant Hindu and Sikh communities.

"Dowry extortion has been recognised as a direct cause of family violence and horrific murders and suicides," Victorian MP Julian Hill told Parliament in Canberra.

While the politicians in India are taking the dowry calculator website seriously, some younger users seem to have been able to see the lighter side of the dowry calculator with many leaving comments.

“I think I'm overvalued and want to earn my profit right away. Any prospective buyers?” wrote one.

“I fell off the chair laughing! (ok, I got up and walked away laughing),” wrote another.

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