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The increasing price of husbands

Region, religion, caste and sub-caste, groom's education, bride's skin tone, and the negotiating abilities of both families all play a role in determining the sum.

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Pakistan became a ‘geographically’ independent country 75 years ago, but it could not gain independence ‘culturally’. Dowries in South Asia act as the major and most pressing factor in marriages of girls. Unfortunately, Pakistan is one of the countries where girls either remain unmarried or have to live traumatic married life as their parents cannot afford to send trucks of dowry with their daughters. According to the findings of a 2014 Gallup survey, 84 percent of Pakistanis believe dowry is important in marriage and 69 percent say it is impossible to get a girl married without a dowry.

Dowry is the money, goods, or estate that a girl brings to her husband or his family in marriage. Region, religion, caste and sub-caste, groom’s education, bride’s skin tone, and the negotiating abilities of both families all play a role in determining the sum.

Read more: Dowry system: A social evil in Pakistani society

Some newlywed girls are forced to bring more and more from their parents’ homes, while others are emotionally traumatized for not bringing anything because it appears to reflect how unhappy her parents were or how they don’t trust her in-laws when it comes to using her belongings. On negation to the practice of giving dowry, ancestors defend the trend by calling it a part of tradition.

According to the Dowry and Bridal Gifts (Restriction) Act of 1976, the aggregate value of dowry and bridal gifts given to the bride and her in-laws cannot exceed the value of Rs5,000. Though our country has witnessed an increase in awareness about dowry and the pressure it places on brides’ families, the bride is still expected to bring some kind of dowry with her to a marriage, whether it is clothes for her in-laws, gold for her mother- and sisters-in-law, a car for the groom, bedroom furniture for her new room, or all of that along with electrical appliances for the entire family to use.

It has been widely observed especially in rural areas that numerous girls are forced to leave studies as the parents prefer to save money for their marriages instead of educating them. The opportunity cost paid to save for dowry is clear which results in no financial independence for females. Financial dependence of girls on their partner is a prominent reason which forces them to stay in abusive marriages and living a life full of compromises.

Despite alleged negative consequences caused by dowry and the legal ban or restrictions on its practice, the custom has been extended, and recently, dowry amounts seem to be increasing. Rapidly increased inflation has made it difficult for poor and middle-income segments of the society to fulfill their basic needs. Due to the upsurge in inflation, price of husbands in the form of dowry has skyrocketed. Gold prices are hovering around Rs. 150,000 per tola from last couple of months. In the past, gold has been used to protect against inflation. From clothes to electric appliances, price of dowry has gone up.

Read more: Pakistan’s inflation reaches an all time high

It is high time to stand against the tradition of dowry which is causing major sufferings for the girls as well as their parents. Dowry has always remained a burden which has now been aggravated due to massive inflation. Males of the society need to stand against this tradition and prefer to value a human being brought into their lives instead of the expensive gifts she is pressurized to bring.