On Thursday, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly approved a law which they titled as, ‘The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Dowry, Bridal Gift and Marriage Functions Restriction Act, 2017’. The bill was presented by Rashda Riffat, Jamaat-e-Islami MPA.
Provincial governments throughout Pakistan, are limiting dowry requirements, in order to improve the social conditions and female rights in the country. Women are often subjected to atrocities because they have not brought insufficient dowry. In a survey released in January by Gallup Pakistan, 56 percent of Pakistanis believe that it is not possible for a girl to get married without a dowry.
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.
The KP law forbids family, relatives and friends of the bride from making dowry payment to groom and his family. Furthermore, restrictions have been imposed on the gift value that can be given to the bride, to Rs.10,000. If anyone from the groom’s side asks for dowry from bride’s family they can be sent to a two-month time in prison or face a fine of Rs.300,000 or both.
The law states, the amount spent on marriages and valimas should not go over Rs.75,000 and like Punjab all activities need to be concluded before 10pm. In addition, valima is limited to one-dish, rice, gravy and sweets.
If anyone fails to comply with the terms and condition of the law he/she is legally responsible to pay the fine of Rs.200,000 with imprisonment for not more than two months.
Similarly, Punjab Marriage Functions Bill, passed in 2015, strictly prohibited decorative wedding functions and multiple-dish banquet. Families showcasing excessive dowry will be penalized and termed to imprisonment for a maximum of one month and a fine of Rs.50,000
However, for all their positive intentions, governments need to ensure implementation of the dowry conditions are met. This is extremely difficult in a society like Pakistan. Who will report the groom’s parents asking for dowry? Not the brides side – unless they are walking out of the proposal due to this. Even if they report it the first time – how does that then affect any further marriage proposals they would get for their daughter.
Alongside this bill, the K-P assembly also adopted a resolution to include a chapter based on the life of Abdul Sattar Edhi, founder of Edhi Foundation charity, in textbooks.