Marriage & Family
Since childhood, I have always seen my paternal grandma collecting valuable accessories and jewelry for my eldest sister. By time, these expensive items occupied a room and are now specifically called, “jahez ka samaan”, or dowry. Even though my sister is an undergraduate and young, many family members try to get her settle down. Perhaps because the gold and silver jewelry would turn dim or the expensive clothes, bed covers and other kitchen items would no more be appealing.
Her formal education, conscience, individuality and career do not matter as these things are useless when it comes to marriage. What matters is your family background, your material wealth and the number of trucks loaded of dowry your parents can afford to send along with you.
Dowry is a social menace that is deeply rooted in Pakistani society. At many places, it is sent along with brides to secure her place and prestige at her husband’s house, while many people practice the custom of giving dowry out of ‘love’. Dowry in any form is a sign of disgracing women openly that they need to realize themselves. It is an act of evaluating the worth of a woman by simple commodities. It deescalates the position of a woman and turns her into a commodity that can be easily replaced by other of a higher value and worth. The situation in urban areas of Pakistan has a slight improvement with regard to dowry as many learned women have now started to shun the custom openly. However, the plight of majority of rural and some urban women in this regard are miserable.
Organizations are working to uplift women and disregard groups of society are incessantly opposed the ill tradition of dowry. Dowry doesn’t only create miseries for the bride-to-be but it’s also a disaster once she’s wedded.
Several cases have been reported by women’s rights organizations where young, married girls were subjected to brutal torture for bringing fewer dowries. Physical and mental torture go well side by side but not all cases of dowry related violence are reported because in a patriarchal society like ours, the burden of family prestige lies on the shoulders of a woman. Study of some cases also reveal the slaying of many women by their in-laws because they brought insufficient dowries. The statistics of gender related violence and injustices against women are high enough to overshadow humanity and sane values of our society.
Rahat, a doctor by profession, married a man of her choice and was given a very expensive dowry as a sign of her parents’ love. She said, “I never thought of dowry as a termite eating up values and humanity from our society. But now, I do think this way because every time I bring something home from my parents’ thats damaged and needs reparation, my husband yells at me for bringing low-quality products. He often criticizes my parents and terms the entire dowry I brought as quantitatively higher and qualitatively lowest. In such moments, I feel an urge to give a jerk to his self-respect because he didn’t own anything himself, uses everything I brought and complains incessantly too.”
In another case- Zehra, who’s been married for 7 years said, “My in-laws didn’t ask for dowry but my parents gave me everything that constitutes a well-furnished house. Soon after my marriage, my brother-in-law got wedded and his wife brought a dowry more expensive than mine. Then the tantrums from my in-laws began. I can’t forget that phase in my life when my husband was completely silenced and my material possessions were compared 24/7 with my bhabhi’s dowry.”
Women have been largely subjected to severe violence and torture for petty things. It is quite evident that they are not just considered lesser to men but in some cases not even humans. A stranger can commit a volatile act with a woman or it can also happen within the purview of our own respectful relations, marriage is no exception.