Increase in dowry-linked divorces perturbs parents

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LAHORE: The trend of divorce by husbands is increasing in Pakistan, and social curse of dowry might be one of the main reasons behind it, say experts.

According to data gathered from family courts of Lahore, 13,733 women filed suits for dissolution of marriage in 2014. In November 2014 alone, about 2307 women sought separation from their husbands by approaching the family courts. The family courts decided 2,137 cases out of 13,733 cases while the rest are lying pending.

Talking to News LensPakistan, a lady traffic police official,Humaira Kazim, 28, said she solemnized marriage with her male colleague which broke due to dowry greed.

“After the Nikkah (marriage contract), my husband asked my mother to give him a car in dowry since he will have to pick and drop me from office. My mother told him that she was unable to meet his demand as she was already giving too much in dowry. Finally, he divorced me,” said Humaira.

It is a common practice in Pakistan that newlywed females bring dowry from their parents on their marriage. The amount of dowry is not fixed and depends on the financial status of parents.

Experts believe that the greed for huge dowry has increased to such an extent that it is resulting in divorces by husbands. In some cases, women remain unmarried for rest of their life because their family cannot afford dowry.

Another woman, Rubina Masud, 32, a schoolteacher, said she was divorced six month ago because her mother-in-law and husband had made a routine of making remarks against her family for not giving her desired amount of dowry. “My husband Sajid Ali started complaining about the lack of dowry the very next day our marriage. He even beat me up in presence of in-laws for this reason,” she told News Lens. Her marriage ended in one year. Her husband married to another girl from a rich family.

Riffat Jabeen, owner of a matrimonial service office, says she is in the business for last 15 years and has observed that greed for dowry in the society has increased many folds during last three years.  “Almost every boy wants a rich and beautiful girl so that he could secure his future,” she commented.

Federal Government had promulgated The Dowry and Bridal Gifts (Restriction) Act 1976 which was amended in 1993 that forbids brides and grooms’ families from giving and taking dowry more than Rs 50000. In case of violation, they might face six-month prison and fine. But, the law was never implemented in letter and spirit.

A lawmaker from the ruling Pakistan-Muslim League-Nawaz Kanwal Nauman, while talking to News Lens Pakistan, said that the government was making efforts to curb this trend and anti-dowry laws are there to end this practice. “Government cannot do anything single handedly. It needs people and media’s support to eradicate this evil from the society.”

Dr Riffat Munawar, Professor of Sociology at Punjab University, said the social and economic factors were the main reason behind this trend. “Inflation, unemployment, contractual jobs, low salaries and poverty have disturbed our social fabric.”

She said, “On the other hand, TV channels show glamorous life style on their screens.  Some people who do not work hard in a competitive society consider marriage the last gamble of their life and want to tie knots in rich families to become rich overnight.” She opined that the society should change its attitude and all stakeholders especially mothers-in-law should play their due role.

Raza Mehmood, a lawyer, told News Lens Pakistan, “I have observed that divorce cases in Lahore family courts are increasing day by day, and most of the cases are related to dowry issues. “

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