Dowry is an amount of property or money brought by a bride to her husband upon their marriage. Alongside other social tribulations, it is one of the most significant problems in Pakistan. Its prevalence is not limited to illiterate people; even educated individuals in Pakistan are involved in this practise. Different groups have their own perspectives and fears regarding dowry.
It is often argued that dowry serves as a gift that assists married couples in practical life, establishes the importance of women within their in-laws, enhances their decision-making power, and acts as a safeguard against marital problems. However, the most common reason is the fear of societal rejection, which may discourage the practise. Despite this, it acts as discrimination in the lives of unmarried girls and proves to be misery for their families amidst the current inflation in Pakistan.
Ninety-five percent of Pakistani marriages involve dowry transfers, resulting in 2,000 dowry-related deaths annually. Disruptive anti-dowry laws, such as the 1996, 1997, and 1998 Family Court Acts and the 2008 Dowry and Marriage Gifts Restriction Bill, restrict dowries to PKR 30,000 and bridal gifts to PKR 50,000. Even the phrase “Jahaiz Aik Lanat,” commonly heard in our daily lives, is rarely implemented.
To prevent dowry in Pakistan, the focus should be on education, legal measures, promoting gender equality, empowering women, financial literacy, cultural change, community engagement, premarital counselling, media influence, and reporting mechanisms. These efforts should involve the government, organisations, families, and individuals to promote equal treatment, empower women, and reduce reliance on dowry as a financial safety net.