Dowry is a centuries-old tradition in South Asia. It calls for a lot of pressure on the bride’s family. Social activists in Pakistan have been calling for a dowry ban to curb this evil tradition which has been taking the lives of so many innocent women for a long time. Laws have been made to limit the dowry, but rarely do they get implemented or enforced. However, we are very pleased that Upper Chitral has decided to ban dowry in a jirga, which is probably a step in the right direction.
When the term dowry is mentioned a lot of things come to our mind. For example, what would be demanded from the groom’s family? Would it be cash, jewelry, household items, property, or something else? Will the bride be accepted and given respect if the demands aren’t met? The economic pressure endured by the bride’s family will be in terms of loans taken which might not be returned with convenience. Other than that if the parents cannot afford a dowry, then the girl will probably have to stay unmarried all her life. They may be victims of abuse (emotional and physical), getting insulted by their husbands and in-laws in the end.
Dowry and Bridal Restriction Act of 1976 is there to deal with the horrors of the dowry, but seldom are the laws taken into account or been enforced in their true spirits. There also has been a lack of awareness regarding this. Director of Community Appraisal and Motivation Programme (CAMP), Mariam Khan has been vocal about the pro-women legislation. She is of the view, “Pakistan has one of the highest numbers of dowry-related crimes; therefore, we need a strong and informative campaign. In many instances, people are not aware of the laws made for their own welfare. A mass awareness campaign is needed. I will also suggest making it part of the school curriculum.”
Tahira Abdullah, a human rights defender thinks, “no law against dowry will ever succeed until and unless social attitudes and mindsets change. To achieve this, a multi-pronged approach is required, including adding components in the high school curricula, textbooks, and teachers’ training; use of print, electronic and social media to highlight the evils of dowry; promoting progressive theatre plays, TV/radio dramas, films, songs, literature; massive advertisement campaigns featuring eminent personalities.”
Upper Chitral has taken the lead in banning the dowry. It has set an example for the rest of Pakistan to ban this evil. Jirga in the flung-away village of Laspur has decided to ban the dowry and extravagance at weddings. The elders decided that a lot of girls remain unmarried due to the fact that their parents couldn’t arrange dowry for them. This is also against the teachings of Islam which propagate simplicity over extravagance. This might be limited to their village but this is a welcoming sign for the adjacent areas to follow their example.