From dowry ban to raise in dowry limit – Here is everything the New ‘Dowry and Bridal Gifts Law’ enforces

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The Federal Cabinet is set to ratify the amendments in the 44-year-old antiquated dowry and bridal gifts law. Considering this, a petitioner approached the Lahore High Court and demanded strict enforcement of the Dowry and Bridal Gifts (Restriction) Act 1976.

Regarding this, the Religious Affairs Ministry says:

The Dowry and Bridal Gifts (Restriction) Act 1976 restricts the values of Dowry, Bridal Gifts, and presents given to brides in Pakistan.

The ministry proposed amendments in various sections and formed a new version of the law titled:

Dowry and Bridal Gifts (Restriction) (Amendment) Bill 2020

In the new bill, marriage has been devolved to the provinces, and demand and display of dowry items and bridal gifts have been banned. According to the ministry, the new law will substitute the values of money, mentioned in the Dowry and Bridal Gifts (Restriction) Act 1976, with gold values to make it suitable for all times.

Here is a summary of what the new bill entails:

  • The new dowry bill will increase the aggregate value of the dowry and bridal gifts from Rs. 5,000 to four Tolas of gold (Rs. 470,000).
  • The bill will prohibit the demand of dowry by a bridegroom and his parents and ban the display of bridal gifts.
  • The draft bill will prohibit a wedding guest from making any present exceeding the value of Rs. 1,000 as compared to the previous limit of Rs. 100.
  • The new dowry law will increase the limit to four Tolas gold from Rs. 2,500 for the total expenditure on a marriage, excluding the value of dowry, bridal gifts, and presents. The marriage expenses include Mehndi, Baarat, and Valima’s functions.
  • The draft law proposes that at the time of Nikkah, the parents of each party to a marriage shall prepare and enter in the appropriate column of the Nikahnama the complete list of dowry items and bridal gifts, along with their values, according to the details of the summary.

The Federal Religious Affairs Ministry says:

All the provincial Governments have endorsed the bill and have supported the conversion of money into gold. The governments of Azad Jammu Kashmir, Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have supported the bill in totality.

On the other hand, Punjab’s government has suggested that the limit of dowry items and marriage expenses should be placed at two Tolas of gold. Sindh’s government has indicated that the law should discourage the demand and display of dowry and has expressed concern that marriage participants may lodge fabricated complaints to settle personal scores.

While the ministry sees the former suggestion as too low and not practical due to inflation, it responds to the latter by stating:

The new law incorporates a ban on-demand and display of dowry while the existing procedure for registration of complaints under the current law provides sufficient safeguards against fake complaints.

Talking about complaints, under Section 8A of the bill, any participant of the marriage function, being satisfied with the Act’s violation, may complain to the concerned Deputy Commissioner but with detailed evidence.

Alia Malik, an associate at Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell, believes:

The federal government should have banned dowry altogether because setting an upper limit promotes the exploitative culture whereby the  parents of a bride are forced to spend often beyond their means in a bid to please family members of the bridegroom. Like all laws dealing with the betterment of marginalized sections of society, the Dowry and Bridal Gifts (Restriction) Act 1976 was never thoughtfully implemented. The ban on-demand and display will eventually open the door to corruption.

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