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Unveiling the Dowry System in Pakistan: Tradition, Tragedy, and Transformation

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

The dowry system is prevalent in various countries, including Pakistan. Dowry refers to the items essential for a girl about to get married, provided by her parents. It's important to note that our religion Islam doesn't mandate the giving of a dowry. A dowry encompasses more than just monetary payments; it can include items like 10-15 dresses for the bride, clothing for the in-laws, groceries, or clothes for the husband and wife's use throughout the year. Additionally, dowry items can range from kitchenware, furniture, utensils, pillows, a house, car, motorcycle, or cash.

Dowry perpetuates discrimination against unmarried girls in Pakistan, where their marital prospects are often determined by the value of the dowries they bring. This issue compounds the hardships faced by a population already struggling to meet basic living standards due to widespread poverty. The practice of dowry has deep historical roots in Pakistan and transcends social and educational boundaries. Even educated individuals participate in this custom, which was originally borrowed from neighboring India and has trickled down from the upper-middle class to the lower class. This tradition has undermined women's rights, resulting in many women remaining unmarried and confronting societal pressures.

We live in a society where taking and giving dowry is a “Pride”.Various justifications are offered for the necessity of dowry. Some argue that it is a practical gift to support the newlywed couple. The common notion that men are responsible for providing for the family prompts this argument. However, can financial stability not be achieved without a dowry? Others assert that dowry establishes a woman's importance in her in-laws' eyes and empowers her decision-making. But can we guarantee that in-laws will respect her autonomy? Some even contend that dowry serves as a safeguard against marital problems, but it can also create problems of its own. The most prevalent reasoning is the fear of societal exclusion, but will society assist in preparing the dowry or support your daughters during crises?

Some people don't understand that when they give in to the greedy demands, they are actually making the problem worse instead of solving it.This system has eroded women's rights, rendering them socially, physically, and mentally vulnerable. To meet dowry demands, parents must compromise their self-esteem by seeking assistance from others and burden themselves with debt. Women face severe harm in the form of domestic violence, acid attacks, mental abuse, and divorces. Parents feel pressurized to save every single penny and collect things for the dowry of their daughters. In some arranged marriage settings, there is a trend of giving a list of things/demands from the groom side to the bride’s side before marriage. 95% of marriages in every region of Pakistan involve the transfer of dowry from the bride's family to the groom's. The country witnesses approximately 2,000 dowry-related deaths annually, with an increasing rate of 2.45 per 100,000 women due to dowry-related violence. Some anti-dowry laws, such as those in 1996, 1997, and 1998, along with the Family Court Act of 1964, have proven ineffective. The Dowry and Marriage Gifts (Restriction) Bill of 2008 limits dowry to PKR 30,000, with a total bridal gift value capped at PKR 50,000.

However, the concept of dowry in Pakistan is gradually undergoing transformation, thanks to the increasing influence of the internet, media, and improved access to education. These factors have collectively contributed to changing societal attitudes and behaviors regarding dowry. The internet and media platforms have provided channels for advocacy and raising awareness about the negative consequences of dowry, while education, especially for girls and women, has empowered individuals to question traditional practices and promote economic independence, reducing the perceived need for dowry. Pakistani movies and Dramas are continuously promoting this concept of eradicating dowry from our culture. Younger generations are increasingly rejecting dowry, choosing to marry without its burden. Legal reforms and stricter enforcement of anti-dowry laws have also played a role in shifting perspectives. However, it's important to acknowledge that change is a gradual process, and cultural practices are deeply rooted and resistant to immediate transformation. While progress is evident, eliminating the dowry system in Pakistan remains a long-term endeavor that necessitates sustained efforts from media, education, civil society, and policymakers.

The dowry system, once a tradition rooted in financial security and societal norms, has transformed into a complex and problematic practice that perpetuates gender inequality and leads to exploitation and violence . “Jahaiz Aik Lanat," a phrase often spoken but rarely followed through in daily life. If this practice is truly as harsh and harmful as it's described, why do people in Pakistan still support something that promotes domestic violence, emotional distress, and financial difficulties? Your daughters deserve better than being seen merely for the possessions they bring into a marriage. It's time to speak out against this tradition and work together to eliminate it from our society, so that other families don't have to endure the negative impact of this harmful social norm. It's a journey towards a more equitable and just society, where the bonds of marriage are built on love, respect, and shared values rather than material possessions.

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This blog post is a compelling and insightful examination of the dowry system in Pakistan, shedding light on its far-reaching consequences. It evokes a range of emotions, from frustration at the persistence of this harmful tradition to hope inspired by the gradual shifts in societal attitudes. What I find most striking about this article is its comprehensive approach. You've not only highlighted the deep-rooted historical and cultural aspects of dowry but also its impact on individual lives and societal structures. The blend of statistical data, personal anecdotes, and legal perspectives paints a vivid picture of the challenges and complexities surrounding the dowry system.

Your discussion on the role of the internet, media, and education in transforming attitudes towards dowry is…


The article does a commendable job in outlining the various forms of violence and pressures women face due to dowry demands. The acknowledgment of the slow but positive transformation in societal attitudes, attributed to factors like the internet, media, education, and legal reforms, adds a hopeful dimension to the narrative. However it should be effective to consider that not only the women but even men have faced the brunt of the dowry system, the fathers and brothers of the women getting married often are the sponsors for this dowry in the wider patriarchal society where the men are "breadwinners" the way this pressures concepts of masculinity in men who can provide for their daughters or sisters at the time of…


This investigation of Pakistan's dowry system exposes its detrimental effects and calls into question rationalisations based on monetary assistance, female emancipation, and social acceptance. The continuation of this detrimental custom raises an important question: How can people and communities actively hasten the abolition of the dowry system and promote a more equitable society in spite of societal changes brought about by the internet and education? The article emphasises the need for relationships based on love, respect, and shared values rather than material possessions and calls for collective action to end a practise that upholds gender inequality and turns marriages into transactions.


This analysis of dowry in Pakistan explains how it causes problems, especially for women. It breaks down what dowry includes and shows how it leads to discrimination and pressure on unmarried girls. I like how you have pointed out the link between dowry and domestic violence, emphasizing the need for change. The positive impact of education and media in shifting attitudes needs to be explored by the government and the phrase "Jahaiz Aik Lanat" as a powerful call to end this harmful tradition should be adopted. As a society it is high time that we focus on mutual respect in marriages, not material possessions


Mahnoor Nasir
Mahnoor Nasir

interesting read. I do agree with your perspective that there is a decline in trend when it comes to giving dowry, I still feel like it is very prevalent in rural areas. yes, the progressive household do see it negatively but lots of people esp from rural areas demand dowry and the issue persists. do u think that media or movie showing the negative picture is somehow not able to convince these people otherwise?

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