The Evil of Dowry: How Long do the Poor Have to Suffer

The Evil of Dowry: How Long do the Poor Have to Suffer
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Rayees Ahmad Bhat

Our society is suffering from many social evils contemporarily. One such evil is the dowry syste which is prevalent virtually in all parts of our society. Parents pay huge sums of money so that their daughters may secure a satisfactory and permanent post. Unfortunately, the whole affair has assured the proportions of scandal. The groom’s parents try to extract the maximum from a matrimonial alliance. They insist on receiving huge amount of cash, luxury items like refrigerators, scooters, cars and in certain cases even houses. Cases of harassment of young brides and bride burning on account of in-adequate dowry have multiplied during the recent years.
In modern times, however, dowry is a contemptible social evil. It reduces the sacred institution of marriage to a business transaction. It degrades a young maiden to the level of a saleable commodity. Poor people have to incur heavy debits to provide their daughter with a handsome dowry. This wrecks them financially. Some people resort to unfair means to meet dowry demands, which pose a grave threat to the moral values of the society. The daughters of poor parents consider themselves a burden on their family and they either opt for a life of disgraceful spinsterhood or commit suicide.
The dowry system is also an evil since it perpetuates the myth of male superiority. If a bride is harassed for more dowries, it may breed hatred in her mind for her husband and ruin the married life of the couple. The dowry system has ruined the lives of many brilliant girls, because their parents could not afford to give sufficient dowry to satisfy their in-laws. Sometimes the girls commit suicide when their in-laws persecute them to bring more and more money from their parents. Sometimes , the greedy husbands along with their parents also kill their wives, when they are not given huge dowry. This accounts for the spurt in cases of bride-burning and violence on women.
Among the patriarchal social customs prevalent in our society, the wide spread practice of Jahez (dowry) affects both rural and urban women. The amount of dowry a woman brings to her in-laws at the time of marriage varies depending on her family wealth, but certain material expectations such as furnishing the in-laws house and gifting gold jewelry and embellished clothing to the extended family of the husband tend to be the minimum standard for many families.
The potential implications of promoting dowry are evident in the society where the birth of a girl is marked by a cry of sorrow. Yet, it is often the sensitive nature of the wedding process that prevents the bride’s family from questioning the burden of dowry amidst blatantly expressed expectations of material gains in coercive circumstances. Over , at least, five years ago, I interviewed female survivors of acid attacks and stove burning in my surroundings. Once I attempted to pen down in a newspaper article the possible factors perpetuating such ruthless acts of gender-based violence, I learnt that for many of these women, their insufficient dowry exposed them to dowry related violence and harassment. Today, in the wake of Oscar winning “saving face”, the issue of gender-based violence, specifically acid attacks have received global attention. Unfortunately, as the consumerist culture continues to escalate in our contemporary society, the practice of dowry as well as the incidence of dowry related violence is on the rise.
According to Islamic scholars, the practice of dowry is not endorsed by Islam and gifts to the bride are only to be given voluntarily. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) to the marriages of his four daughters and there is no record of him having given anything to his daughters except for Fatima to whom he gave simple household items when she married Ali (RA). If Islam promotes minimal expenditures and the only obligatory condition of the Nikkah Nama (marriage contract) is that of Haq Mehr (which is a sum of money the husband gives to his wife), then there is a greater need for a concerted effort to condemn the practice of dowry in our society. Dowry is not curse, it is a bane-something that scars a woman’s self respect and pushes her towards an ignominious end.

Note:The author is a Chemistry Research Scholar at Jiwaji University Gwalior and can be reached