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Pervez Saleem


The Dowry System: A Curse on Families and Society

Irma Abbasi
Freelance Writer

جہیز ایک لعنت ہے
दहेज एक अभिशाप है

“If you think that educating your girl is enough for her to tackle the boundaries of tradition, then you are wrong. You have to ensure that not only you empower her with education, but also make her strong enough to resist the evils of societal pressure under which she often buckles. Her life and honor are far more important than “What will people say?” A little emotional support from the parents can make the life of a daughter abused by her in-laws beautiful.”

“In the commercialized world, marriage is monetized, the marital relationship is commoditized, and the abominable practice of dowry is institutionalized.”
“Dowry is not a tradition to be followed blindly, it’s a tradition to be eradicated.”
“Don’t make your daughter a commodity, empower her to be independent.”


The dowry system, deeply ingrained in cultural traditions, has long been a practice in Pakistan. Despite
being perceived as a symbol of love and financial support for newlyweds, the dowry system carries a
plethora of negative impacts on families and society at large. This article delves into the detrimental
effects of the dowry system in Pakistan, acknowledging it as a curse, particularly for economically
disadvantaged families, and suggests ways to alleviate its burdens.
Negative Impacts of the Dowry System:
1. Financial Strain: The practice of giving and receiving dowries can impose an immense financial
burden on the bride’s family. Families may feel compelled to provide expensive gifts and cash to
meet societal expectations, leading to financial strain and even debt.
2. Gender Inequality: The dowry system reinforces gender disparities, predominantly affecting the
bride’s family. This perpetuates the notion that women are financial liabilities and reinforces
unequal power dynamics within marriages.
3. Social Pressure: Societal expectations regarding dowries can create significant pressure on
families. The fear of social stigma and judgment can force families into extravagant spending, even
beyond their means, to conform to prevailing norms.
4. Marital Discord: The emphasis on material wealth as a precondition for marriage can lead to
strained relationships. In some cases, disputes over dowry matters have escalated to marital
discord, and in extreme cases, to domestic violence.
5. Economic Consequences: The dowry system can hinder economic progress by diverting resources
away from investments in education and career development for women. This perpetuates a cycle
of financial dependence and limits women’s opportunities for personal and professional growth.
The Unfortunate Consequence for the Economically Disadvantaged:
It is crucial to recognize that the dowry system, in essence, has become a curse for families with limited
financial means. Due to their inability to meet exorbitant dowry demands, many daughters and sisters
from impoverished families remain unmarried, facing societal prejudice and isolation. This exacerbates
the existing socio-economic challenges and underscores the urgent need to eradicate this detrimental

How to Eliminate the Dowry System?
1. Legal Measures: Strengthening and enforcing laws against dowry-related practices can serve as a
deterrent. Stricter legal consequences for those demanding or accepting dowries can help change
societal attitudes and discourage the perpetuation of this tradition.
2. Educational Campaigns: Raising awareness about the negative impacts of the dowry system
through educational campaigns is crucial. Promoting gender equality and encouraging families to
prioritize education and skills over material possessions can help shift societal values.

3. Community Engagement: Community leaders and influencers play a vital role in shaping societal
norms. Engaging them in conversations about the harmful effects of the dowry system and
encouraging them to promote alternative values can contribute to cultural change.
4. Financial Literacy Programs: Empowering families with financial literacy can help them make
informed decisions and resist societal pressures. Understanding the long-term economic
consequences of dowry practices may encourage families to prioritize sustainable financial
5. Support Networks: Establishing support networks for individuals facing dowry-related pressures
can provide a safety net. Counseling services, community groups, and helplines can offer
assistance and guidance to families navigating the challenges associated with the dowry system.
The dowry system in Pakistan poses significant challenges to families and society, perpetuating financial
strain, gender inequality, and social pressures. Efforts to eliminate this practice require a multifaceted
approach, involving legal measures, education, community engagement, financial literacy programs, and
support networks. By collectively working towards cultural change, Pakistan can move towards a more
equitable and progressive society, free from the burdens imposed by the dowry system, acknowledging it
as a curse that particularly burdens economically disadvantaged families.

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