A few days ago, an ad came smack in the middle of the news on Geo TV, a Pakistani Channel that happened to be on. And I watched it. I still regret that decision to this day.

In the ad, a family had come to “look” at a girl (much like one looks at goats before Bakreid) to see if she was suitable for their son. She was fair, pretty, had all her teeth (I am sure they told her to say ‘aaa’ and checked behind the scenes), could possibly count to ten (not that that mattered) and could make a cup of tea, thus insinuating kitchen duties would be fulfilled. (Round roti FTW)

Their son on the other hand was more like a deranged ostrich than an actual human. However, the mother grinned ear to ear nodding, that yes, we do like this goat – I mean girl for our ostrich, I mean son.

The parents then proceeded to say to the soon-to-be samdhis that they would like them to give their son a motorbike as well as a generator.

Horror struck the parents’ face as the teacup in the pretty fair goat’s hands fell to the ground shattering her hopes and dreams to marry the deranged ostrich.

That is when our very own scholar/bigot/racist/narcissist/potty mouth/confused about Ghalib/ (the list is never ending) Aamir Liaquat appeared on TV - with that permanently pasted shady sneer that for some bizarre reason many in Pakistan love. You know, that smile that says “I am making a complete a** of you all and you don’t even know it.” “I am scum of the earth but ya’ll love me anyway.”

At that moment, as he stood smiling on the screen, I thought that he would speak up against Dowry; how it is a curse, a sin, how it exploits women and demeans them as human beings and takes away their rights.

Silly me!

Instead, Aamir bhai opens his mouth and says: “If you are having trouble getting goodies for your son-in-law, if you can’t afford to get dowry, then come to my show on Geo TV and win those prizes instead. We will give away motorbikes and everything else that your daughter’s in laws would want when they sell their son to you. Ok, he didn’t say that last part, but isn’t that what it is exactly?

A price or a value placed on their son. ‘Our son is worth exactly one motorbike, a refrigerator, a generator (gas wala), an AC, and a microwave.”  As demeaning as it is for women, I am very surprised at the men who sit quietly while their parents calculate their value in this manner as well.

Back to Aamir bhai, I don’t know why I was surprised to see him actually endorse Dowry by stating he will give away gifts – I mean, not so long ago, he was giving away babies to guests. ‘Hey there, I like you, here’s a baby. I don’t care if you can afford to take care of it, if you have a healthy household, if you have a house, if you are even capable to taking care of a baby that is not even yours, but here is one anyway. Here, take it. Gift. Just take the goddamn baby!”

Seriously, why is he still on TV? Why do people still like him? It remains a mystery to me.

How can he (and Geo TV) endorse dowry when it is such a huge problem in our part of the world? In 2010, there were 8,391 “reported” dowry related deaths in India alone. Pakistan had 2,000 such reported cases. These are deaths of women who were murdered (many burnt alive) or driven to the point of such hopelessness that they decided to take their own lives. The continuous harassment, torture from their husbands and in-laws to extort more dowry, and the girl’s family being unable to comply, lead to these deaths. Some parents actually choose to kill their daughters when they are born rather than to go through this.

In the not so parallel universe, you also have the politically correct dowry seekers too. You know those ones who say “We don’t want anything, but (big fat but) you can give whatever you like to your daughter. If you give her a new bedroom set, she will sleep more comfortably.”

This pretty much means: “We are not saying it because we classy but we still want stuff! It makes us look good in the eyes of others, so give more than you can afford, so we can show off. And oh, lots of jewelry too please. It’s really ok, if you cannot afford it, and have to take out loans, go bankrupt, sell your house, as long as we get what we need -  I mean what your daughter needs. Oh, my son would also like a watch. Obviously, so he can be on time when he goes to meet your daughter, of course!”

“Or, you could go to Amir bhai’s new show and win everything there?”

A girl’s family starts saving for her wedding quite literally from the day she is born.  Just imagine how this money, if used alternately, could improve living standards, provide better education, health and maybe even start up that business one has been meaning to for ages.

 Say no to dowry. It is an evil that lives amongst us and also call out those who support it.