Dowry means property or money brought by a bride to her husband. It is a custom prevalent in almost all societies of the world. This custom which has turned into a curse has spread its tentacles alarmingly to the detriment of the marginalized classes of the world.
Many young girls belonging to poor classes either remain unmarried or even if they get married, are ill-treated by their in-laws for not bringing enough dowries with them.
We hear and read many cases of young brides getting burnt alive, forced to commit suicide or getting divorced only because they could not afford to bring big dowry with them. In the present age, this menace has assumed alarming proportions and the situation calls for urgent steps to its solution.
In the following paragraphs we shall try to trace the origin and spread of dowry in different parts of the world and present proposals and suggestions to its effective redressal at the end.
It is a misconception that the custom of dowry originated in upper caste Hindu families. This custom is found to a large extent in many parts of the world. It has spread more abominably in the countries of the subcontinent like India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan,etc. Although, in India dowry has been declared unlawful in 1961, yet there is no let-up in this curse to date. According to National Crime Records Bureau in India, a bride is burnt for dowry every 58 minutes. In Pakistan, the situation is also very dismal and appalling. Pakistan also has a law regarding dowry like The West Pakistan Dowry Act which was enforced in 1967. But, this law was replaced by the Dowry and Bridal Gift Restriction Act 1976.This act has jurisdiction over all the citizens of Pakistan. It stipulates that the value of dowry should not go beyond 5000 rupees. Moreover, clause seven of the Act provides that the list of dowry items should be exhibited and communicated to the marriage registrar. The sad part of the story is that Pakistan being a Muslim-dominant country is not immune to this menace. There is no concept of dowry in Islam. Some people, out of ignorance, may point out that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) also gave dowry to his daughter, Hazrat Fatima(R.A) when she was married to Hazrat Ali(R.A). The fact of the matter is that this dowry included very simple household items of daily use and not very costly things. And there is no record or evidence that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) gave dowry to his other daughters at the time of their marriage.
In Pakistani Muslim society, this evil is so deeply rooted that nowadays it has taken the shape of a lucrative business. People are often found desirous of marrying their sons from those families that can afford to give sizeable amount of dowry.
How tragic it is that most often a girl’s personal qualities and qualifications are simply eclipsed and ignored when it is discovered that she belongs to a poor family and would not bring huge dowry. Hence, her prospects of marriage are diminished and she stands rejected most often.
This menace leaves deep psychological scars on the victims especially young girls belonging to poor strata of society.
The question automatically and naturally arises as to how long this cruelty and diseased mentality will continue to take its toll on poor souls. How long will we seal our lips to bow to this monster? Now is the time to stand up against this menace.
Here are a few steps to reverse this monstrous trend.
First of all, our educated lot should come forward and take the initiative to bring an end to this custom. Boys belonging to elite families should lead the way by refusing to accept dowry from their would-be wives. This courageous step will set the trend to be followed by others.
Secondly, the government can act as a catalyst to ensure that anti-dowry laws are strictly followed by all and sundry.
Our moneyed class should play a pro-active role by encouraging simplicity and austerity in the society. The masses may take lesson and may emulate this trend.
The above mentioned steps, if implemented in true letter and spirit, will pave the way for the removal of this curse and will bring revolution in the society and countless daughters of the poor will be saved from suffering mental trauma and agony. Their lives will be transformed into oasis of happiness and conjugal bliss.