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Dowry: an ugly custom

Published Apr 19, 2012 12:00am

THIS is apropos of the letter ‘Age-old customs and traditions’ (April 4). While we cherish the hubbub and the blissful ambience surrounding a marriage, why do we fail to realise the presence of a very old (and unjust) practice which ought to be eliminated? That is, dowry.

On matrimonial shows, the man, when asked about dowry requirements, often says, ‘I will be satisfied with whatever the girl brings,’ or ‘I will accept dowry if the girl’s parents offer any,’ etc. Does the honour of men, or their conscience, not rebuke and prevent them from demanding, or accepting, such an odious thing as dowry?  Yes, dowry should be labelled ‘an insult’, as accepting dowry is no better than receiving alms.

Girls are not horrible burdens who, when marrying, bring dowry as compensation to the men for marrying them. Then why do parents, as well as giving their daughter to another family, grant various things like furniture, appliances, attires, utensils, etc? Is this the price of parting from their dear daughter?

Parents leave no stone unturned for saving and gathering dowry items. This process begins as soon as the girl enters this world and does not come to an end until she is married off.

Despite receiving considerable and valuable dowry items, the in-laws often ridicule the girl for not bringing sufficient dowry articles. The mother-in-law then gives her own example, boasting how much and how precious dowry she had brought with herself at her own marriage.

The only reasonable solution for the eradication of this gender-biased tradition will be to put an end to the convention of arranged marriages; the girl is rarely ordered by her husband to bring anything as dowry in love marriages, though parents of the boy do place such demands on her.

Nevertheless, in such cases, her husband does not insist on dowry, since he has gained his desired life partner, which is enough reward for him.

In arranged marriages, on the other hand, the boy also asks for dowry because he does not think it a reward or blessing if he is bestowed an astute and sensible wife.

In addition, girls should also find employment so that they are considered productive family members, and not ‘good-for-nothing’ burdens, since household work is not deemed a vocation in Pakistan.

I wait for the day when love marriages in Pakistan will not be considered an offence or a forbidden act, and when boys’ parents will relinquish demanding dowry whether the marriage is arranged or otherwise.

SANDHYA KARAMAT BARLAAS Bagh, Azad Kashmir