Comparing the societal dynamics to how they existed a decade back, one can safely say that we are moving towards narrowing down the gender gap. But the issue with that we face in Pakistani society when it comes to violence against women particularly is that the practices are so deeply invested in our cultural practices, that we seldom feel they are ‘wrong’ anymore. Among them, with its matchless status, stands dowry.
Engulfing the true essence of relationships beyond price tags and Islam’s teachings about a commitment as sacred as marriage, our society still suffers, plagued by it even in 2018.
As per the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ definition, any act that functions against a particular gender to suppress it can be termed as ‘Gender-Based Violence’.
Keeping it in perspective, writer and independent consultant and chairperson to Chief Minister Punjab’s Task Force on Women Empowerment, Fizza Farhan, terms dowry as gender-based violence in developing countries as well. (Read Fizza’s piece on the topic HERE)
Though we seem to aggressively make efforts to break the customary shackles, dowry still exists very acutely from financially struggling families to the upper elite.
To fight it, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government imposed a legal punishment. The law entitled as ‘Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Dowry, Bridal Gift and Marriage Functions Restriction Act of 2017’ says that the total expenditure on the wedding, including Baraat and Walima, should not exceed the amount of Rs 75,000. Furthermore, to curb the curse, the law also states that the maximum value of gifts to the bride from her family or any related individual should not be more than Rs 10,000. To restrict the groom’s family from making any demand of such nature, the law also puts a fine of Rs 30,000 along with two months in prison.
The other three provinces, sadly, lie far behind in the sphere. Punjab asks the expenses to not exceed a reasonable amount but puts no clear ban on the practice. The state of affairs is even more depressing in Sindh, where Sindh Assembly actually opposed the draft bill presented calling for a ban on dowry.
Even in the present century where practices like this feel like a phenomenon of the past, Pakistan has about 2000 cases of dowry deaths reported per year. Pakistan also has the HIGHEST rate of dowry deaths i.e, 2.45 per 100,000 women.
To free ourselves and coming generation from the suffocating chains of discriminatory ‘customs’ and shameful practice of commercialization of relationships, we need to take a collective stance against it.
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