Twenty five years ago, all over the developing world, much noise was made about the Encashment of the Last Human Resource, by marginal farmers, who lost their lands and migrated to woe-begone slums in the cities. This Last Human Resource was their nubile daughters, who sold themselves over and over again to keep the home fire burning, very often while the men folk first drank away their sorrows and later castigated the poor Last Human Resource for their loss of face.
In the 1980s there was a widespread outcry over the effect of the World Bank and Big Farmers' formula of ' costly inputs and export orientation of agriculture', which forced migration of marginal farmers to urban slums.
Given the limited resources and employment potential of migrants, it took very little time for families to resort to encashing their only saleable commodity, the nubile young girls, and confirmed ILO studies.
In Thailand, Philippines and South Korea, sex holidays provided the most imaginative foreign exchange funnel. Between 70 to 80 percent of the male tourist traffic from Japan, Australia, Europe and the U.S.A. did so solely for the purpose of sexual entertainment.
And in South Korea, easily the hands-down winner in the stakes for the World Bank and U.S.A.'s awards for obedient developers, the sponsored orientation programs instructed young girls that their ' carnal conversations ' expressed their patriotism. Young recruits were taken through their paces by experienced old hands; and the passing out certificate at the end of the orientation course was a credit card, valid at the five-star 'inns', which would remit commission into the account of the call-girl who brought in her customers, foreign exchange spending beaux who added to the country's Forex kitty !!
In the World Bank lexicon, South Korea is a stunning example of how development with World Bank aid raises standards of living, damage to morals and social cultures notwithstanding. The situation in India is approaching critical status, despite the heightened AIDS paranoia, with its lucrative spin-offs.
Where India perhaps will score better is the addition of the Gender Equality argument to the debate, as a social trend; instead of percolating down, this has escalated to the top of the social ladder in recent times with fathers entrusting their businesses to daughters. Or perhaps, is it that old fear fostered by the kundlis: that the exit of daughter Laxmi will mean financial curtains for him?
Witness: the failed businessman who entrusts his only daughter with the task of resurrecting his drowned business. The challenge: 'set the business on its feet. Why do you need to get married when you can have fruitful relationships ?' and perhaps occasional rendezvous' with Lover Boys while she chases business for Papa dear? Gender Equality!!
Why should the daughter not do for her parents what a son would have done? Quite a contrast from the hoary tales of girls hanging themselves to save the father from the shame of acknowledging that he did not have enough to give each of them a reasonable dowry or brides being burnt over insufficient dowry. Nowadays, when you've already blown up your money, don't get the daughter married at all, let her have a ' relationship'.
Attention Maitri karaar brigade. Of course it is another matter altogether that in this era of 'living in' , the maitri karaar is hopelessly outdated. Maitri karaar used to be an agreement reached by two people who decided to live together as man and wife without being married legally. The woman had no legal rights, although legal circles opined that any child of the union could have claimed maintenance from the father's estate; but no such case surfaced while the karaar was in vogue. Now it is history.
Had it been an only son, would the businessman have postponed the marriage to resurrect the dud business?
As the encashment of the last human resource, a daughter does for the family what a son, perhaps cannot. Of course he would have the option of marrying an heiress, perhaps. .
A son brings the dowry home, a daughter takes it away.
Dowry has, after all, been used as a club on women since Time Immemorial.
A no-dowry marriage is rarely acceptable. Especially for the father of the daughter who measures his 'nose', his real or imagined status by the quantum of dowry he can give away.
The debate is open: is this gender equality or encashment of the last human resource?