2018 was a tremendously productive year for Pakistan when it comes to changing cultural and traditional mindsets to thoughts and beliefs that are relevant to changing times and all in all, more beneficial to society as a whole. While it would be a huge stretch to say that anything has changed in practice, this author would like everyone to at least acknowledge that Pakistanis have finally started to speak up against issues and problematic beliefs that have long been a part of our society and have escaped, unchallenged to date.
Whether it concerns political thought or women’s rights or child abuse, one cannot help but concede that after decades of being sidelined by the masses, these issues have finally captured the attention of thousands of citizens, some eager to undergo this paradigm shift, some still resisting. What fascinates this author is the recent campaign launched by UN Women against the prevalent, exceedingly harmful dowry culture.
It’s very interesting to note that while this particular tradition has no roots in Islam, the religion followed by a marked majority of this nation, the concept has managed to infiltrate our culture to the extent that a marriage is considered incomplete without this transfer of goods.
UN Women’s initiative, however, brings some form of hope to the horizon. With prominent celebrities backing up the campaign and lending their support to the cause, it seemed to the author as if Pakistanis would finally acknowledge that accepting and/or demanding dowry is an indication of greed and makes the marriage more of a business deal than the union of two individuals. The author was, however, proven wrong.
It cannot be argued that dowry or as UN Women put it ‘jahez khori’ is not only a useless, draining practice but in many cases leads to long terms psychological and emotional harm to the bride if her parents fail to meet the expectations of the groom and his family. This author had obviously set her expectations too high for our society, something that Pakistanis were quick to annihilate. With what started as a movement to reduce the deaths, violence and emotional trauma that a bride has to suffer at the hands of society because of dowry, was quickly turned into meme content for the general public.
Several people lashed against the campaign with their own grievances; many demanded that if this were the case then the bride’s family should not concern itself with the financial status and salary of the groom, in the spirit of equality. What baffles this author is the realization that once again, the male population of Pakistan has turned a movement that should’ve been a lesson to them, into one that should cater to their problems – something you will commonly observe for all movements that are raised with the purpose of giving some form of justice to women.
Men, not everything is going to be about you and your problems. If you wish to raise awareness about this, launch your own campaign. Do not drag down a legitimate movement and do not call it a double standard.
Every year around 2000 dowry related deaths occur in Pakistan with higher figures for dowry related violence, alarming rates that require our immediate attention.
The most you will have to face as a consequence is rejection whereas your female counterparts might be attacked and/or killed if they do not bring along a dowry that satisfies your family. Besides, it is the right of a woman to marry someone who she believes can provide for her or at least share the financial burden of the household with her. For once, please make peace with the fact that you might not be the center of something.
Let us work together to eradicate this altogether from our marriage customs and move into 2019 with a new, healthier cultural mindset that celebrates marriage, not cold business deals!