In a historical initiative, Pakistan finally declared the practice of dowry as illegal, a law that should have been there since day one. The bill presented by the Government declares that the groom’s family can no longer demand dowry from the bride’s family, in any form. This law acts as a ray of hope in Pakistan’s misogynist society, who has always objectified and materialized women.
We have witnessed that the world order keeps evolving over the years, replacing modern traditions and rituals into the social structure. Nevertheless, there are a few practices that remain a significant part of society. The sub-continent has a historical context attached to its social order and culture. The dominant rule of dynasties, and then the British Empire, indulged the region into cultural malpractices. One such social atrocity is the practice of dowry, which is still very common in the sub-continent.
The roots of dowry fall back to medieval times, when the bride was gifted precious goods from her family, to ensure her independence after the wedding. Even in the Colonial Era, the British made dowry mandatory. The weddings without the ritual did not hold any legal significance. The incompetence and negligence of governments, who exploited poor people and made them a slave of their traditions, led to a social disaster in the region. Many countries have been able to get rid of this menace, the subcontinent still has to find a way out of it, and even in the 21st century, it is not that simple.
A dowry is a greedy act of discrimination towards women based on their cast, background, social and financial standing. How come the married life of women depends on the bribe offered to the groom and his family. Dowry is embedded in the roots of Pakistan’s society, and even after knowing the adverse impact of this atrocity, people are not willing to let go of the tradition. The most concerning factor in this regard is the role played by educated people. Even they indulge themselves in this malpractice, one way or another. People think the amount of dowry given or even received determines the social standing of their family. At least the literate individuals in this country should stand against this practice, but they choose to ignore the topic.
The auspicious event of marriage is supposed to be a merger of hearts, along with the celebration of life. Still, these abnormalities have corrupted the entire idea around it. After this ignorance in society, discrimination towards women should not be a surprise because it presents them as a burden to their families. More than half of Pakistan’s population lives under the poverty line. They spend the earnings of their lifetime on managing the dowry of their daughters and sisters. There is no way that the concept of equality can thrive under these circumstances. People will always degrade women for their existence, while their families will consider them a burden or a responsibility. A woman is never provided the freedom she deserves. She always remains under the pressure of an alpha male, be it their fathers, brothers, or husbands. How can marriage, build on greediness and such immoral acts, survive happily. Dowry adds up to the already miserable circumstances of the people in this country. The existential crisis and social pressure faced by women because of these practices are unmatched. They are objectified and traded in the entire process of marriage, even by their own families.
Being declared as an Islamic Nation, the State is responsible for condemning and acting to stop such societal atrocities. Dowry is highly condemned in Islam and almost every other religion, there is no way it should have squeezed in our culture. However, the real issue is how to eliminate it from society. The upper class of this country enjoys a financially privileged life, and dowry is a chance for them to show off their wealth, whereas the poverty-stricken people are forced into debt and slavery to marry off their daughters. However, there is no one to stand against the practice, and even after condemning the tradition, people are reluctant to revert from it.
Recently, Pakistan became the first Muslim country to ban dowry. In the bill passed by the government, the tradition of dowry has been termed as illegal. The details of the gifts given to the bride have to be written on the official Nikah Nama. The allowed gifts are only clothes and bedsheets, as prescribed by the Islamic Law, and anyone not committing to these obligations is to be treated as a law offender. The Ministry of Religious Affairs also stated that the guests could only gift up to a thousand Pakistani rupees to the married couple. The law is implemented in all provinces unanimously, with no exceptions. This recent positive development has helped shed light on a sensitive social issue; however, it is still uncertain if this would restrain the ignorant Pakistani public. In a society where the bride’s family is expected to bear major financial handlings in a marriage, overlooking this initiative would not come as a surprise.
The abolishment of dowry can impose a major relief to the people. It can help raise awareness about the topics of gender equality and women’s rights. Studies have shown that dowry is practiced in almost 95% of marriages in Pakistan. Marriages based on such a vague and immoral tradition are ceased to cause problems in the future. The ratio of divorces keeps increasing, and women are often subjected to violence and hatred in such marriages. The dysfunctional bills of the past have not been able to control this absurdity, and the events of acid abuse, domestic violence, mental and physical torture have been on the rise since forever. People compromise on their integrity and self-respect, women are treated as objects, deprived of their basic rights, and pity is that their own families are doing so.
Bills passed by the governments can serve as a legal warning, but without the willingness of people, they cannot succeed. The educated lot of the country has to raise their voice; slogans like ‘Jahaiz aik Laanat hai’ would not do anything unless the matter is dealt with a rational approach. Education and awareness is the only way to purify this corrupted society. Additionally, women should stand side by side and fight for their rights, as this is high time for the people of our society to treat women with respect and grant them the freedom they deserve.