An evil that persists: Dowry System

Author: Maira Masood

“Lain dain ki baat krlain?” A typical stance most of us have heard during a marriage or “Baat Pakki”. Dowry or “Jahez” is defined as the transfer of money, property or gifts at marriage from the bride’s side to the groom’s side. Ethically speaking, doesn’t it sound weird? Why oblige and burden the bride’s family to give such a handsome amount of money or such expensive gifts to please the groom’s family? These are the so-called “traditions” that needs to be eradicated from the system for good.

Ideally, the term “marriage” is a beautiful commitment encompassed with love, respect, and happiness for a man and women to spend their lives together in harmony and peace. However, to my utter dismay this is not the case in most Asian countries including Pakistan. Around 95% of marriages in all regions across Pakistan are engrossed in dowry system. Rather than being an auspicious event, marriage becomes a strain. Families start gathering money or items for the dowry that they are supposed to give if they are marrying off their daughter.

Reflecting on the reasons to give a hefty dowry is a must. One of the most common reasons is that giving dowry is a “Tradition”. It is a part of many customs introduced by our forefathers. However, this isn’t only a tradition anymore but has become mandatory irrespective of the problems the bride’s family might suffer while investing such a great sum on dowry.

Another shocking fact is that the dowry is demanded by the groom’s family. To prevent any hurdle in the marriage and with the aim to happily wed their daughter off, parents put in all the possible efforts to keep the groom’s family gleeful. This act is thought to make the life of bride easier after marriage as she won’t be taunted or mocked for not giving dowry. As sick as it may sound, it is in fact a bitter truth. One aspect that bothers me is: Why are we as a community so involved in materialistic possessions. If dowry ensured a healthy and successful marriage, then there would not have been a single broken marriage or a murder based on the inability of the bride’s family to provide sufficient dowry.

Furthermore, illiteracy is another major candidate for this system. Lack of awareness and knowledge about the importance of an educated bride is neglected in our society. An educated girl can bring a change, work her way up to success and pave a great path for her kids in future. Inheriting dowry on the other hand plays no role in proper upbringing and success of any individual, family or children.

“Log kya kahain gay” is another root cause of this existing dowry system. Wealth and well-being of a family are measured by the amount of dowry the bride’s family gives on the wedding. We are so engrossed about how society will react or think if we say “NO” to dowry. We tend to forget that we are what make a community or a society. If each one of us changes their own perspective, and stand against the dowry system, a change is right around the corner.

This sustaining dowry system brings in numerous issues along as well. I am going to list two of the most common issues, majorly faced by the bride and her family. An increased financial burden on the bride’s family, as a result of saving up money for a dowry, is a prime issue. Already a significant sum of money is invested in the marriage setup, catering etc. This comes along with the additional costs for dowry. Many families crumble under the immense pressure, believing their reputation will be hurt if they fail to provide a good dowry to their daughters at their wedding. Often families go under huge debts or loans to make up for dowry, disrupting the entire financial plan and set up.

Furthermore, in a number of cases women are oppressed, insulted and taunted even after their marriage. Bride’s family continues to financially deteriorate while keeping up with the endless demands of groom’s families even after marriage. This oppression often takes shape of bride’s murder due to incompetence of her family to feed the groom’s family with their materialistic desires. Deaths on the bases of dowry issues are not new.

Here is one thing we need to realize and understand. A family is giving away their daughter, on whose education and upbringing; they spent a handsome amount of money. They are sending away their daughter into a new household, in new people and community and in return the only thing a parent expects is their daughter to be content in her new house. Asking for dowry, breaking marriages just because bride’s family is not financially stable enough to fulfill all the materialistic demands of groom and his family is nothing but disgusting. Such situations are another type of mental torture a bride and her family experiences. It should be the groom and his family giving dowry to the newly wed bride, be welcoming towards her and make her comfortable in a new environment.

As Mahatma Gandhi said:

“Any young man, who makes dowry a condition to marriage, discredits his education and his country and dishonours womanhood”

The author is an undergraduate student of Bio-sciences at NUST, Pakistan and loves to write on taboos in the society.