The tradition of Dowry

Throughout ancient times, marriage has been considered to be a sacred institution. Societal necessities, however, have obliged cultures to bind this institution in certain legal obligation nevertheless. One such obligation is the dowry. It essentially refers to the money that the bride brings to the marriage. It is supposed to be the money given by the bride’s parents to the marriage to provide for their livelihood and to tend to the needs of their children. The money, thus, brought by the bride, is generally inherited by her offspring.

A common tradition on the sidelines of the dowry is the dower. It refers to the practice of the husband transferring property or assets in the name of the wife on the morning next to their wedding night. In Islamic and mid-European cultures where such is practiced, this ceremony is indicative of the fact that the marriage has consummated and the groom recognizes the bride to be his wife. This dower, or gift, is solely the property of the wife and cannot, according to traditional law, be claimed by the husband at any time. It is supposed to provide for her in the case of an early death of her husband during widowhood.

Another interesting tradition is that of the bride price. It refers to the practice of the groom’s family paying away a certain sum of money to bring an extra member into the family. This money goes to the bride’s family instead of to the bride herself, unlike the aforementioned traditions. It may be possible that the practices of dowry and bride money are practiced in the same culture. The bride price, however, has traditionally been smaller than the dowry.

These age-old customs are still practiced in many parts of Asia , specially the Indian sub-continent and the Gulf nations. This includes countries such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, etc. Though these traditions are seeped in a high volume of common sense and have rules which define and limit the bestowing and use of matrimony money, these rules are seldom followed in practiced. These customs, across the sub-continent have come to be abused to extract money from the weaker party instead of providing security against harm for the bride.

This had led many governments to introduce stringent laws against this practice of exchanging money on matrimony. Physical acts of violence and women abuse still continues in many places, however.

-Lin J

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