Lives unfulfilled: No dowry, no dreams

Published: September 22, 2013
While anti-dowry activists continue to fight a futile war, more and women are being sacrificed on the altar of dowry.

While anti-dowry activists continue to fight a futile war, more and women are being sacrificed on the altar of dowry.


Just two days after four sisters in Vehari committed suicide by jumping into the canal because they had no dowry and hence no hope for marrying, ever, two other women undergo the story of hopelessness elsewhere in Pakistan.

The reason, again, was: not having enough money to appease the other party’s greed with a sizable dowry. Their dreams of being dressed in red bridal attire have faded away. For these sisters from a village in Nankana Sahib, there is little to look forward to. Both have crossed the age of 55. And they did not get married because their family could not arrange dowries as desired by the prospective in-laws.

In the same family, two nieces of the same women have also crossed 40 and have no hope for marrying. These girls did have some inherited land. But their father and brothers did not want to have the girls married away because with them, the lands would go too.

Three sisters well educated and having their own income, too, could end up being single. Their brother, Rizwan Ahmed, told The Express Tribune that his sisters did have several proposals. “They liked the girls but we could not arrange for the dowries. So they still remain unmarried.”

The girls have crossed the age of 45, and their family has given up hope. For this reason, the two brothers also have not got married. “How can we get married when our sisters are still unmarried?”

While anti-dowry activists continue to fight a futile war, more and women are being sacrificed on the altar of dowry.  This leads to women having unfulfilled lives. IN worst case scenarios, they end up facing a horrific death at the hands of their in-laws or of their own choice.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has issued a report in March 2010 which revealed some appalling statistics about woman rights violations in our country during a period of five years. The report has claimed that 3,379 women have been killed for not bringing dowry with them and asking for their rights.

“For women who want to get married, the prerequisites are: fair complexion and sumptuous dowry. If they do not have good looks, a more lavish dowry is required,” explains Yasmeen Aftab Ali, author and university professor. “I know families who are under heavy debts for the sake of their daughters’ marriages.”

She recalls tragic news in 2009 regarding five sisters who committed suicide in river Sutlej. The poverty-stricken sisters, hailing from Mailsi had jumped into the Sutlej together. Four years later, a similar incidence happened again.

“Who is to blame? The greed of those who want the dowry as a ticket to a prosperous future? Ot the lack of effective laws?”

Commenting on the existing dowry laws in Pakistan, Yasmeen was of the view that the Dowry and Bridal Gifts (Restriction) Act, 1976, currently prevalent in Pakistan needs to be revisited immediately. It restricts the amount spent on dowry not to exceed Rs5,000. Similarly, the amount of cash and gifts given to the newly-wed couple is not to exceed Rs5,000. The value of presents for the couple from guests may not exceed Rs100 each. All this sounds so unreal and hence completely ignored.

In Yasmeen’s opinion, the law must include a clause that the boy’s family demanding dowry must be reported to the authorities and punishment must be awarded to the violators. “Right now there is no such clause.”

She suggested that if a girl feels that she is not having a wedding soon, she should not waste precious time and attempt to work.

“This will help her realise that marriage is not the beginning and end of life.”

Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2013.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • zog
    Sep 22, 2013 - 12:16PM

    why do the bearded ones keep silent on these issues…
    why dont they pull their pants or shalwar even higher above their ankles and muster enough courage to launch a campaign against this social evil..


  • Jeeja-ji
    Sep 22, 2013 - 12:35PM

    What a tragedy!!!
    They had to kill themselves just for being a women in male dominated society.


  • Imran
    Sep 22, 2013 - 2:07PM

    agree, and even the beared ones are taking this dowry. Know a lot of the people who are molana and qari who have taken dowry and when you ask them why? They will come up with stupid excuse that the girl relatives forced him.


  • Syed A. Mateen
    Sep 22, 2013 - 2:44PM

    I don’t find any difference between the Pakistani Muslims and Indian Hindus as far as the issue of dowery of the girls is concerned.

    During the last tenure Mian Mouhammad Nawaz Sharif I wrote to him to ban the lavish spending on food during marriage ceremonies and through an office order, Mian Nawaz Sharif banned the serving of lavish food dishes which was challened by a food caterer in the court of law.

    The full bench of Supreme Court issued judgement and serving the food was completely banned in the country in 1997.

    I was also about to take up the issue of dowry with the Prime Minister but by then the civilian government was toppled by General Pervez Musharraf.

    Now Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif has again become the Prime Minister and I have all the intention to take up the case with him to completely ban asking of dowery from the girls parents, but the main problem is even if the law is passed by the parliament, the dowery will be taken and given unofficially, similarly to the food which was banned by the Prime Minister and the judgement was passed by the Supreme, but food was continued to be served in the country and to protect the offenders, Police mobile vans were placed outside the venue where lavish food was served to the guests.

    Only the Hotels and Shadi Halls obeyed the orders but people kept on serving the food at their residences.

    When people do not obey the orders of the Prime Minister and the Supreme Court, it becomes almost difficult to get the implementation of the law.


  • Anya Bahaus
    Sep 22, 2013 - 8:41PM

    It is an interesting read. And a tragic one if I must add. The only thing I disagree with this article is the title. It might have been used to catch the reader’s attention. However, many may just read the first 2-3 paragraphs and might not get the message the writer is trying to communicate. Unfortunately, it might also backfire and actually solidify the fact that the life is unfilled without marriage. I am a girl myself. Is there a chance that I might never get married- could be. We all have to agree that the ratio of women:men is increasing. Meaning there are fewer men to the many women out there. I would like to say it is the survival of the fittest. Jokes apart, regardless of the dowry, there is a chance that there will be a few women that will be left without a husband. Does that mean they should all jump of the bridge? Now is the time that we have to make ourselves self-sufficient. Our parents will not be taking care of us financially for the rest our lives. The only reason we can do this, is by being proactive in every opportunity we get and not let our our possible inferiority complex get in the way.


  • Munir Qureshi
    Sep 22, 2013 - 8:55PM

    This and other social evils, in the first place, should be dealt with in the school text books to raise the general awareness. There can be laws on the book, but in order to give teeth to these laws, professional social works offices should be established like rescue teams, who upon receiving a complaint should be able to activate the police/marshall at the lower courts.
    The empowerment of the women can take place only when they have free access to education,professional training and the job market.
    The stigma of women not being able to take care of themselves can be removed by improving the education standards generally and the education and training of mullas in particular. As soon as the women can take care of themselves, they would find their own mates and their parents would not have to worry about dowry.


  • me
    Sep 22, 2013 - 9:12PM

    such a sad situation it is. But even educated I mean well educated, highly qualified people are also accepting dowry. They never say no to the girls parents.


  • Sep 22, 2013 - 11:22PM

    1-The Muslims married males should be allowed to marry 2/3 women when they feel that the girls are crossing the age limit and agreed to join the male family whole heartedly instead of wasting life time or allowing them to commit suicide. Suicide is not the remedy and Harm.
    2- The single wives should also accept other woman in their life thinking that just because their parents were having the dowry to fulfill the demand, otherwise they had to face a similar situation.
    3- The male persons who are sound in health and wealth should only come forward to marry a second wife.
    3- It is better if our society accept the girls w/o dowry.


  • I. Kamal
    Sep 23, 2013 - 1:05AM

    And these people call themselves Muslims? The tradition of Islam is for the man to bring the dowry, as practiced in all Arab countries. In this respect, these people are worse than the worst Hindus, and for them, there was no need for the creation of Pakistan.


  • I. Kamal
    Sep 23, 2013 - 1:05AM

    And these people call themselves Muslims? The tradition of Islam is for the man to bring the dowry, as practiced in all Arab countries. In this respect, these people are worse than the worst Hindus, and for them, there was no need for the creation of Pakistan.


  • Adnan
    Sep 23, 2013 - 9:31PM

    A Collection of essays in a book ‘DOWRY & INHERITANCE’ edited by SRIMATA BASU are worth reading. Distributed in Pakistan by Oxford Uni. Press


  • Shaista Ilyas Sherazi
    Sep 23, 2013 - 9:37PM

    Though I am not a well known journalist, yet I would like to appreciate your article. When I was student in University, studying ‘women studies’ I thought to write on same issue with similar reference of Dowry law, manually I wrote but could not send to any newspaper.
    sounds v.good to read your views and suggestions :)
    May Allah guide us in this regard. Aaameen

    Best Regards
    Shaista Ilyas


  • Shaista Ilyas Sherazi
    Sep 23, 2013 - 9:39PM

    Good candid opinion given Yasmeen,and about time the real life related, issues are
    discussed as well.


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