In a survey released yesterday by Gallup Pakistan, 56 percent of Pakistanis believe that it is not possible for a girl to get married without a dowry. The survey was conducted by the Gilani Research Foundation Survey. The survey was carried out among a sample of men and women, in rural and urban areas, of all four provinces of the country.
In a survey conducted by Gallup Pakistan, 56 percent of Pakistanis believe that it is not possible for a girl to get married without a dowry.
Marriage in Pakistan is still an extremely important event in most individuals lives, unlike in the West, where increasingly co-habitation is chosen. In 2014 in the United States, married couples represented only 48 percent of households, and this is likely to drop further in younger generations. However, for a traditional conservative society like Pakistan, where Islamic injunctions promote marriage as an essential act to be performed by all individuals, marriage still plays a formative role for most individuals. The average age of marriage for women in Pakistan is 19 years and for men, it is 24 years.
As a society, the event is celebrated with huge spending on lavish mehndi, weddings, walima banquet, bridal ornaments, gifts and often dowry. The excessive amounts spent on weddings continue despite government attempts to regulate the industry. The relative expenses incurred by the different economic classes may vary but wedding celebrations are held by all. Once again the wedding festivities are an Islamic tradition where Muslims are exhorted to rejoice this event.
However, the dowry is a very south Asian cultural tradition, which generally involves the women taking goods or cash from her parents to her wedding home. The atrocities that have been committed over the years to women who were not able to bring over enough ‘dowry’ to please her in-laws has meant that while the Pakistani government has not outlawed the asking of a dowry, in 2008, it restricted dowry to Rs 30,000 and marriage gifts to Rs50,000.
In India, where women have also been subjected to atrocities because they have not brought in sufficient dowry, the government has outlawed asking for dowry and awards several years in prison for those found asking for dowry. Although the implementation of this law is difficult.
It is in this context, the survey results are shocking. Only 29 percent of people surveyed across Pakistan felt that women who did not have a dowry would be able to get married. While 15 percent did not know or did not wish to respond.
Males, who are the recipients of these gifts, over 58 percent felt that it is impossible for a girl to get married without the dowry, while only 26 percent males said it is possible. Of the women, asked about the issue, 32 percent thought it was possible, but 53 percent said it was impossible for a girl to marry without the dowry.
Only 29 percent of people surveyed across Pakistan felt that women who did not have a dowry would be able to get married.
The issue of saving dowry for girls is one major reason why poor families instead of sending their daughters to school, prefer to save the money for their marriages. 62 percent of children out of school are girls. Furthermore, parents who cannot financially afford dowry are pressurized into taking loans from relatives or taking charity from their employers. All of this adds to their emotional and financial burden of having a daughter.