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Analysing The Dowry System Religion Essay

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Published: Mon, 15 May 2017

Dowry or Dahej is the payment in cash or/and kind by the bride’s family to the bridegroom’ s family along with the giving away of the bride in Indian marriage. “Kanyadanam” is an important part of Hindu marital rites. Kanya means daughter, and dana means gift.

Dowry originated in upper caste families as the wedding gift to the bride from her family. The dowry was later given to help with marriage expenses and became a form of insurance in the case that her in-laws mistreated her. It continues to be highly institutionalized. The groom often demands a dowry consisting of a large sum of money, farm animals, furniture, and electronics.

The practice of dowry abuse is rising in day by day. The most severe in “bride burning”, the burning of women whose dowry was not considered sufficient by their husband or in-laws. Most of these incidents are reported as accidental burns in the kitchen or are disguised as suicide. It is evident that there exist deep-rooted prejudices alongside women. Cultural practices such as the payment of dowry tend to subordinate women in Indian society.

When the dowry amount is not considered sufficient or is not forthcoming, the bride is often harassed, abused and made miserable. This abuse can escalate to the point where the husband or his family does burn the bride, often by hammering kerosene on her and lighting it, usually killing her. A woman is burned to death almost every twelve hours. The number of dowry murders is increasing. In 1988-2209 women were killed in dowry related incidents and in 1990, 4,835 were killed. It is important to repeat that these are official records, which are hugely under reported.

According to figures there were a total of 5,377 dowry deaths in 1993, an increase of 12% from 1992. Despite the existence of rigorous laws convictions are rare, and judges are often uninterested and susceptible to bribery.

An accurate picture is difficult to obtain, as statistics are varied and contradictory. In 1995, there were about 6,000 dowry deaths.

Many of the victims are burnt to death-they are doused in kerosene and set light to. Routinely the in-laws claim that what happened was simply an accident. The kerosene stoves used in many poorer households are dangerous. When evidence of foul play is too obvious to ignore, the story changes to suicide-the wife, it is said, could not adjust to new family life and subsequently killed herself.

2. Introduction

“The right to life of women in Pakistan is conditional on their obeying social norms and traditions.”

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Dowry is given as gift but it becomes violence when it is demanded.

“Reasonable dowry for a reasonable match” was advocated in our male-dominated society in the name of religion and culture, in some cases to deny a girl her share in the inheritance, They said dowry was a form of social security for the girl and more of a burden on the father to the extent that it sometimes made him commit suicide.

Dowry is one of those social practices which not educated people would possess up with pride, although many still adhere to this much deplorable practice. Dowry is continued to be given and taken. Even among the educated parts of the society, dowry is continued to make an essential part the negotiations that take place in an arranged marriage. Dowry deaths of a newly married bride are still regularly in the news.

Although it may not be possible to determine when and where these practices started, it can be thought that dowry and bride price are subsequent to the organization of monogamy. A search for the origins of dowry would have to move backwards into antiquity afar. This is the same as saying that dowry and bride price came into being after the practice of monogamous marriage had become prevalent.

Although the practice of dowry exists in many of the countries, it has been assumed that the quantity of a challenge to the forces of modernity and modify only in sub-continent and the complex in the running of high class of the society. Many reasons are put forward for explaining this practice to compensate it. It is said that a dowry is meant to help the newly-weds to set up their own home with new house hold things.

Dowry as we all know is paid in cash or sort by the bride’s family to the groom’s family along with the giving away of the bride. The custom of Kanya-danam is an essential aspect in Hindu marital rites: Kanya = daughter, danam = gift. A reason for the origin of dowry could possibly be that the groom and his family had to take up the ‘onerous’ liability of supporting the bride for the rest of her life.

2.1 Duties and Rights of Husband and Wife after marriage

Allah has informed us about the just rights of each other on us:… the wife’s rights (with regard to their husbands) are equal to the (husband’s) rights with regard to them, although men are a degree above them; and Allah is Almighty, Wise.

Qur’an [2: 228]

The statement that men are a degree above than women means that authority within the household has been given to the husband in preference to the wife because a heavier burden has been placed on his shoulders by another verse of the Quran which says:

Men shall take full care of women, because Allah has given the one more strength than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard …

Qur’an [4 : 34]

2.2 Marriage as a financial transaction

Young married women are particularly vulnerable. By custom they go to live in the house of their husband’s family following the wedding. Dowry is just not the end in terms of transaction because the greedy parents of the groom do not end their curse. The wife is often seen as a servant of husband’s family, or if she is working outside, as a source of income, but has no extraordinary relationship with the members of her new household and therefore no base of support the family. Some 40% of women are married before the legal age of 18 years. Illiteracy amongst women is very high, in some rural areas up to 63 %. As a result they are isolated and often in no position to assert themselves.

Demands for dowry can go on for years. Religious ceremonies and the birth of children often become the occasions for further requests for money or goods. The inability of the bride’s family to comply with these demands often leads to the daughter-in-law being treated as a pariah and subject to abuse. In the worst cases, wives are simply killed to make way for a new financial transaction-i.e. threat of second marriage marriage.

“The will to obtain large dowries from the family of daughters-in-law, to demand more in cash, gold and other liquid assets, becomes vivid after leafing through pages of official reports that dutifully record the effects of gratitude, foreclosures, barren plots and cattle dying for lack of fodder. Dowry becomes dreaded payments on demand that go together with and follow the marriage of a daughter.”

Newspapers are filled with pages of women seeking husbands and men advertising their eligibility and social prowess, usually using their caste as a bargaining chip by telling their status positioning. A “successful” marriage is often seen by the wife’s family as a means to advance up the social ladder. But the catch is that there is a price to be paid in the make a truck of dowry including furnishing of room, split AC, complete furniture of a home, kitchen use things and electronic home appliances etc. If for any reason that dowry preparations cannot be met then it is the young woman who suffers in terms of violence and threats.

The price of the groom astronomically enlarged and was based on his qualifications, occupation and earnings. Doctors, charted accountants, lawyers and engineers even prior to graduation widen the marvelous right to expect a ‘fat’ dowry as they make the most hunted after cream of the graduating and educated dowry association.

3. OBJECTIVE

3.1 Arranged Marriages and Dowry

We are all familiar with the story: boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy and girl gets married. For the preponderance of the western world, this is our ideal of a great beginning to a perfect marriage. It is significant to realize that while Pakistan is much rationalized in some aspects they still keep to the tradition of arranged marriages. Marriages formed out of love “love marriages” do happen in Pakistan but it is not the part of custom. It is an accepted fact that a person’s family will play a role in choosing the marriage partner.

It is significant to keep in mind that in Pakistani society an arranged marriage is seen as an act of love. Since marriage is one of the most important decisions a person’s life he will ever make and because divorce is not accepted among the most families, it is imperative that the marriage choice is carefully thought out and planned by the head of the family. How can a young person make such an important decision on his/her own? Instead, the family (usually the parents) seeks for certain qualities in a life partner. Some popular traits are looked for in both male and female are: matching levels of education, matching cultures, close parental cities, matching religions, just to name a few of these.

Potential brides also come under scrutiny by the boy’s parents. Since it is a commonly held belief that brides are the personification of that family’s honor and pride, the girl must be from good family and have good etiquettes. She should be respectable and have no stain on her name.

Now before we make that frown of revulsion. The dowry system has been in practice since before the written record and it has been used by parents in every country imaginable, including USA in older times. The main idea of the dowry system was to provide some kind of security for the bride if something unfortunate occurs with her husband such as death or divorce. As you can possibly imagine, daughters can be exceedingly expensive issue. Today this age can vary from 18-25 though exceptions do apply depending on socio-economic factors in the society.

If a good dowry is not made, the girl is unlikely to have a “proper” match. This again, is typically random. While the dowry system is still in place, it has become more of a “bride-price” paying system. A proper match for a very poor family for marriage of their daughter into a somehow better financed family or a good match for a middle-income family might be finding a husband that is a doctor or engineer. As you have almost certainly guessed, there are a very few brides who in fact keep hold of their dowry after marriage.

A good number practiced form of use of the dowry does not meant to be disgraceful and is far away more sensible for many families. More often than not, the bride’s dowry gets engrossed into the household for the greater good of the entire family.

Not only people who receive dowry but also blame those people who pay dowry. People from poor or middle class families who cannot afford to give dowry to their daughters are either killed, stressed, or are not taken home by their in-laws. Our country shoddily needs girls who daringly stood up against dowry. It should be stopped by us.

4. HISTORY

4.1 Woman can decorate a house better than man

Dowry system was introduced in many civilizations after the passage of time in history; this was introduced to share the burden in terms of expenses for settling a new household. In Athens the absence of dowry would call into question the legitimacy of the marriage. Kyrios (Guardian) was required to provide dowry to bride.

In ancient Egypt during Pharaohs there was no sign of dowry as woman had right to inherit parents property along with brother. But When Greeks and Roman took control of Egypt signs of dowry began to appear gradually.

In Ancient Roman time, it was responsibility of the parents to provide dowry to the bride, which was to be managed by her husband after the marriage. 8th century BC pre-Roman Hammurabi code of conduct parents was responsible for giving dowry to daughters. Rather Mother-in-laws role has more importance in creating this situation, mother-in-law had also gone through wives position in her past time and same wife, today being tortured, will repeat the same with future sons of wife. What the sense seems as there is a woman psychology behind this

Mother-in-law has unmarried daughter to be married away.

An ego-clash for manage (one is on the queens seat and the other to invade queen seat) in the house or change in sons attitude after new woman’s arrival thus two women (two grinding stones) and son in between two (grain) is ready to be flour. unfortunately, hate of wife and mother-in-law is all over the place in the world.

4.2 Background Reasons

Originally, the purpose of a dowry was to provide “seed money” or property for the establishment of a new household as the beginning of the new life, to help a husband feed and protect his wife, and to give the wife and children some support if he were to die. This property was “beyond the dowry” (Greek: parapherna, the root of paraphernalia) and was known as paraphernal property or extra-dotal property. One of the basic functions of a dowry has been to serve as a form of defense for the wife against the possibility of ill treatment by her husband and his family. In other words, the dowry provides an incentive to the husband not to harm his wife. A husband thus had certain property rights in his wife’s dowry. In addition, the wife might bring to the marriage property of her own, which was not included in the dowry and which was, as a result, she is alone responsible.

4.2.1 European History of Dowry

Dowry was widely practiced in Europe before the European revolution. In Homeric times, the usual Greek practice was to pay an amount as bride price. Ancient Romans also practiced dowry, though Tacitus notes that the Germanic tribes practiced the reverse custom of the dower. Dowries were exchanged in the later classical time (5th century BC).

One common penalty for the kidnapping of an unmarried woman was that the abductor or rapist had to provide the woman’s dowry. Until the late 20th century this was sometimes called wreath money, or the breach of promise.

The Domostroy, a Russian advice book of the sixteenth century, includes advice to set aside property for purposes of a dowry so that a women can also get equal rights in property, and use it accumulate linens, clothings, and other things for it, rather than have to suddenly buy it all for the wedding; if the daughter should happen to die, the dowry should be used to give alms and for prayers for her soul, although some might be set aside for other daughters.

In some areas of Europe, most recallable Eastern Europe, land dowries were very common. It was commonly given with the condition that he will take the surname of his bride, in order to continue the family name.

4.2.2 Asian History of Dowry

Dowry is a common practice in many Asian countries, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and many others. In India, where incidents of bride burning and dowry death acquired notoriety, the payment of a dowry has been prohibited under. Then 1961 Dowry Prohibition Act in Indian civil law and subsequently by Sections 304B and 498a of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Electronic items like refrigerators, television and washing machines are given by the bride’s parents as part of a ceremony along with clothes, jewelry, shoes and many other accessories. In recent years there supposedly has been a rise in dowry deaths even when law enforcing organizations claim that the situation is under control where as situation shows vice versa.

4.3 The curse of Material

The practice of dowry is prevalent in India since olden times like centuries ago. The custom first started in Vaishya community of Hindu society but later all other communities in the Hindu society adopted this practice rapidly. Later, this practice spread into the Muslim society in places where Muslims lived as traders and not as rulers with Hindus in joint India. The evil practice of dowry has turned the blessed relationship of marriage into a profitable relationship which makes the life of chaste girls and their parents a hell, giving rise to suicide, corruption and moral degradation. The difficulty of dowry is directly connected to Muslims’ economic, social, educational and religious life.

One of the reasons of these social evils is lack of knowledge and refusal with Islamic teachings and practices are not being implemented. Hundreds and thousands of educated and well mannered Muslim girls are leading unmarried lives or believe in late marriages. In a society where this is the case with unmarried girls, who will bother about the marriage of widows and divorcees? The Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) and his companions have set many practical examples for their followers by marrying widows and divorcees. Young Muslim girls have to lead unmarried life because of financial difficulties of their parents or because of the non-availability of appropriate matches and if matches are available then demands are very much high.

4.4 Displaying wealth at marriage ceremonies

Some of us have faithfully held onto the familiar theme of over-spending at our marriages and its related ceremonies only to cite the example of how insensitive can be the richer sections of this society to avoid an over and improper display of wealth and prosperity. In the society like ours, this display could easily be regarded as a kind of crime or social disparity, argue some discriminating citizens who have been even candidly protesting about this extravagant and shameful side of our lives. They do not believe in simplicity, modesty and moderation. They do not understand that in their pretentious style of celebrating marriage ceremonies, or even birthday parties and anniversaries and other such occasions, they set poor examples for a Muslim society, and make the lesser privileged sections of society feel wretched.

Let’s see what has been suggested by Law and Justice Commission: “The relevant laws about marriage ceremonies, including the serving of lavish meals, decorations, aerial firing, cracking of explosives, and exhibition of dowry, should be appropriately amended to provide serving of a single dish to a limited number of guests, not exceeding 300, in the valima and baraat functions.” It makes one think of the magical number of 300, and how a manipulation of such numbers can and does occur in our system.

A person would like to state the challenges that are arisen, and the new complex, depressing contexts that have been created in the field of arranged marriages specially. Why don’t we get example of simplicity from the role modal of all the Muslims through out the world Holy Prophet P.B.U.H that how he spent his life, how did he arrange marriage ceremony of his beloved daughter Hazrat Fatima R.A.? One is harshly referring to the financial side of the picture. For example, how the bride or groom with the green card or the immigrant status in the West is a valued customer in the business of marriage bureaus, and varied match-makers. Certainly, marriage bureaus are a flourishing lot these days. Even the trend of online marriages has been in widely practice now!

5. ANALYSIS OF DATA

5.1 From Cradle to Grave

Along with cash and gold, the dowry includes cars, televisions, refrigerators and a house – no matters whether or not the groom’s family already having them is immaterial. And if the groom has a Government job, the dowry would include the bribe for a “good posting” at the desirable station.

In 1999, their number was 3,886, 3,739 in 2000 and 3,191 in 2001. Some cases ended in “suicide” – “accidental death” in police parlance – but not at all. Taking into account 1,774 “suicide” cases in 1999, which “came down” to 1,632 in 2001, and 3,378 “accidental deaths” in 1999, which declined to 2,750 in 2001, it is clear that the problem of dowry continues to trouble women. And it is certainly no coincidence that nearly 80 per cent of the suicide cases and accidental deaths occurred in kitchens and the daughters-in-law were the only victims.

Education and prosperity have only increased the practice of dowry. And prosperity has given rise to demands for costlier things. In fact, affluence is responsible for the system, she argues. All rich land-lords started the practice of giving riches to their daughters during marriage which slowly became a tradition among all of the society. Dowry system seems to be common amongst a section of Muslims too, though in the Shariah it is prohibited. The better the groom’s educational qualifications, the higher the demand is the dowry to make up for the “expense” incurred on his education. They prefer to call it “voluntary” aid from the bride’s family though. They name it the happiness of bride’s parents. Though, among tribes, the dowry system works in the overturn direction – the groom’s family pays out money.

5.2 Dowry- main cause of domestic violence:

Due to not giving Dowry to bride by her parents there has been a increase in death. Three examples are given here which are most likely to those which we read almost daily news papers:

Young housewife burnt alive for dowry by his husband

Woman ends life due to dowry harassment

Woman killed for seeking dowry

The giving or receiving of dowry – usually money or gifts to is illegal. But the practice remains widespread in both rural and urban India with cases of women being tortured and even burned to death by their husbands and in-laws.

5. 3 Worst Drawbacks

Dowry refers to a marriage practice in our society where gifts of cash or other valuable items are exchanged between the families of the bride & groom. Dowry is paid in the form of cash, furniture, jewelry, property etc and it is paid before or during the marriage ceremony, sometime after marriage. The custom of giving Dory has changed it is now more essential part in good marriage and has taken a harmful form. This is a social practice carried out both in urban and rural areas in different manner according to the expectation.

Violence’s related to Dowry

Rape & beating

Acid throwing

Female infanticide

Forced suicide

Homicide (as bride burring)

According to researchers that dowry is the common cause to rise the domestic violence. Laws & Implementation Strategies against Dowry Violence

6. Dowry and Islam

Most of the marriages are arranged in the South Asian countries like Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. There are lots of rules and regulations before and after marriages, especially in Malabar area. As for the arranged marriages, the initial step is arranging a broker to find out appropriate bride or groom. After the completion of this procedure the broker would play as an intermediary between the two parties. Next step is prenuptial investigation. Both parties would investigate each other (via relatives or neighbors) about the family back ground, lineage and financial status. If both parties are satisfied with the investigation, the next step would take place. If the boy and girl liked each other, the final step prior to the confirmation would take place. “Dowry”…Eh..that’s it..”Dowry”.

Let’s take a look upon the common people. How they manage to make a large amount (as for them) for dowry? They take severe struggles to give their daughters to appropriate grooms. Many poor families even tend to suicide due to this compulsory system if they have more than one girls to be married. Most of the divorces in India take place on account of dowry. After marriage some sisters would encounter severe harassments from husband or his family in terms of dowry. In this case, the wife can complaint against everyone whoever participated in this torture. As per the Indian Penal Code 498 A, the accused would be prosecuted with fine. Although the dowry makes many problems, the political parties and feminist organizations are keeping silence. Actually they don’t raise their voice sincerely against the dowry system. They would only try to solve the individual problems. Plenty of dowry based marriages are going on with Malabar Muslims. Actually I don’t know in which era this system crept into Indian Muslims. One who knows Islam and Quran will never support this kind of system which is contrary to Islamic law and culture. “Allah” apparently explained about dowry via “Quran”. Dowry is privilege of women (not men). She deserves it out of her husband on marriage.

“And give to the women (whom you marry) their “Mahr” (Obligatory bridal money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage) with a good heart” [Al Nisaa 4:4]

“But if you replace a wife by another and you have given one of them a cantar (of gold i.e. a great amount) as “Mahr”, take not the least bit of it back; would you take it wrong fully without a right and (with) a manifest sin? And how could you take it (back) when you have gone in unto each other, and they have taken from you a firm and strong covenant?” [Al Nisaa 4:20-21]

Explanation: If any one of you wants to divorce his wife and replace her with another, you should not take anything from what you have already given the first wife, even it was a huge amount of wealth. The “Mahr” is given in exchange for the right to enjoy marital relations (Explained by Ibn Katheer).

It’s obvious out of the above verses that women hold a prominent status in Islam. Dowry should be given to her on marriage. It’s her right. But people follow just opposite irrespective to these verses. Islam lets men to accept any gifts from bride or her family. But this gift should not be dowry or upon any persuasions. He can only accept this gift if they are providing it based on their own will. But people misinterpret it (deliberately) and consider it as a compulsory dowry system. In fact men undervalue the right of women. After receiving a huge amount as dowry from girl’s family, he gives a bit from it to her as “Mahr”.

7. Conclusion:

Best education is the best dowry. Parents are advised to educate daughters the best as the time has changed and it is time that education has more value in the employment market and fields have been opened for women to become entrepreneurs. Amount of dowry may be invested for her secured future.

Girls’ parents should help reporting Governments or related authorities about the dowry demand by groom parents. Marriage with such boys should be discouraged as demand of excessive dowry means they do not want girl but money this would result to extortion after marriage by torture.

Besides are arresting blacklisting in communities of dowry extorters most basics. Will help not only to deject, will also help other girl parents to keep away from such people.

Our younger generation should come forward to rectify this trend and reform the society. They should set an example by neither demanding nor offering dowry. Those who demand dowry should be persuaded by explaining to them religious and Quranic commands. If they still persist in their evil demands, they should be socially boycotted and the matter reported to the police. Demanding dowry is a legal offence also. Anti-dowry committees should be set up. This will bring positive results for the unmarried daughters of the poor.

These steps are in accordance with the commands of God and His Prophet. These will create a good society free of evil. Unless the younger generations volunteer for such noble tasks, no reformatory projects can succeed.

8. Suggestions

Dowry is considered as an illegal act and giving and taking dowry are panelized. Even it is in practice in rural and urban areas in different ways. Government should pass Dowry Prohibition rule Violence against Women and Children. Both government and NGOs should work together to fight dowry problem and the steps they should take against dowry are:

Activities against Dowry

Creating awareness

Educating women about the legal right

Providing legal assistance

Empowering women

Campaigns against dowry


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