Tragedy over dowry

Our culture is such that parents are burdened with the concept of dowry and trying to keep face.

Editorial October 02, 2013
Our culture is such that parents are burdened with the concept of dowry and trying to keep face. PHOTO: FILE

Every year in Pakistan, thousands of Pakistani parents fret the impending weddings of their daughters, all for one primary reason: dowry. Our culture is such that parents are burdened with the concept of dowry and trying to keep face. While parents experience these hardships, children, particularly daughters, become emotionally affected, sometimes resulting in devastating tragedies. The latest story comes from south Punjab, where four sisters committed suicide by jumping into a canal after an argument with their father, a destitute farmer, over the issue of dowry. The frustration felt by the daughters, who were between the ages of 31 and 45, is that which many Pakistanis can relate to — especially since marriage is viewed as the ultimate goal for one’s children, frequently given more importance than education. Here, the father did not have the financial means for dowry, leaving his daughters unmarried well into their forties, whereas parents begin looking for suitors when their daughters are just teenagers.

The way it is practised in Pakistan, the concept of dowry has become akin to paying off the husband’s family to accept one’s daughter into their home, hinting that a daughter is a burden on a family. Somehow, the positive meaning of marriage and love, and dowry as a means to help the new couple financially, is lost in this tradition. Of course, those who continue to propagate such traditions are to blame for the concept’s long existence in society.

The only way to eradicate the tradition is to help people realise that an institution which should be about love and understanding is, instead, laden with materialism and monetary amounts listed on contracts. As a society, we must rethink the demeaning concept of dowry. The government should take serious measures to impose limits on the dowry parents give their children and do their best to strictly impose these limits; else such tragedies will continue to occur.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 3rd, 2013.

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x | 10 years ago | Reply

If only our society was freer and girls and boys were free to choose their partners, it would be so much better. They could choose for compatibility and to shun parental ghairat attitdues and blackmail of 'zaat', 'khandaan', 'paisay', etc. Most of the time it is the parents, mother actually, who demand dowry not the boy who would prefer a companion,a wife according to his wants rather than a dowry. Yes, surprising but true. Attitudes are changing. But mothers in law whose families had to pay hefty dowries at their weddings remain determined not to let their daughters in law 'get off easy'. Sad.

x | 10 years ago | Reply

How can limits be imposed on dowries and how can these be checked? Govt has imposed one dish rule which can be enforced in swanky hotels where the people can certainly afford to pay more (and btw increased taxes and raised prices by all hotels like royal palm and pc means that even with one dish 'to keep costs down' , today it costs muchh more), not in a lower class family which is expected to provide a feast, which they can ill afford, for the baraatis. How can dowry be checked? will enforcers come to every wedding to personally check dowry or will they arrange dowry free marriages for all girls from lower stratum of society? No parent would report if someone is demanding dowry for fear of having the wedding called off or their daughters reputation besmirched, etc. Also, it is a point of 'ghairat' for fathers to be able to pay their daughters dowries. Alas, only a social solution can work. Education and awareness. Not education with degrees but education of minds. Awareness at social level through media including dramas, morning talk shows (which are apparently hugely popular). Instead of staging fake weddings, they should tackle these regressive attitudes and all stakeholders need to make a concerted effort to changes all such backward, unfair attitudes and practices.

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