Dowry is called “Dahej” in India (“Jahez” in Pakistan) and “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 ( called Kanyadaan) 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. Although the dowry was legally prohibited in 1961, 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 India. The most severe in “bride burning”, the burning of women whose dowries were 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… According to Government figures there were a total of 5,377 dowry deaths in 1993, an increase of 12% from 1992.” (Source)
Dahej is a Hindu tradition and is very different from the Islamic concept of dowry in which the bridegroom gives a kind of dowry to the bride which is known as mahr. “Mahr is a tradition in Islamic marriage. It is a mandatory gift given by the groom to the bride. Unlike a bride price, however, it is given directly to the bride and not to her father. Although the gift is often money, it can be anything agreed upon by bride and groom such as a house or viable business that is put in her name and can be run and owned entirely by her if she chooses” (Source). For an interesting discussion on mahr, read Sumera’s post.
Dahej is openly condemned by many families, yet it has successfully become part of the marriage system in Muslim countries in South Asia like Pakistan and Bangladesh. Rich Pakistani families give anything from large electronic appliances to property and imported cars to their daughters in dahej. Usually the dahej is displayed publicly for everyone to admire. The practice of dahej is definitely against the teachings of Islam but it is still practiced by many Muslim families.
How many of you believe that dahej should be a necessary part of South Asian Muslim marriages? What about mahr – is handsome mahr important? How can we end the practice of dahej?
Bride burning by Aisha
Marriage Contract by Sumera