Jahaiz, destroying families one wedding at a time

Published: February 27, 2013
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Where, I wonder, does their ego go when they ask for a heap of things that become a prerequisite for marriage to those girls? PHOTO: FILE

The absurdity of the dowry norm, commonly known as jahaiz, prevalent in our society has long been debated. I did not realise the gravity of the issue until recently when my father’s cousin had to sell off his shop — the sole source of income for his family — to arrange the jahaiz for his daughter.

The girl is now happily married to a financially stable guy but her family back home is finding it hard to survive.

Her mother, who started sewing clothes to earn a living, has developed an eye illness that cannot be treated due to the treatment’s high costs. Her other daughters are too young to earn on their own.

Bear in mind, the cost of the jahaiz excludes the actual cost of the wedding, the clothes, the food and the arrangements. Can your parents, at their age, handle such extravagant demands for one daughter let alone those who have five?

Were the bedroom set, the flat-screen TV, fridge, microwave, cutlery and the thousand other things given in her jahaiz worth it, when all of those things were already present in the groom’s house?

When guys are rishta-hunting for their perfect brides, all of them boast about how rich they are and how they will provide the girls with a luxurious life. Where, I wonder, does their ego go when they ask for a heap of things that become a prerequisite for marriage to those girls?

Why do they demand, even if implicitly, for things that will remain packed and unused in their homes for ages?

The parents of one of my friends outright refused to marry off their daughter when the family of the guy she was engaged to demanded a lot of jahaiz. That seems like the right approach, but unfortunately is not very practical in our society.

Most of the parents would want their girls to get married as soon as they hit the age of 20. Most of them are afraid of not finding another potential rishta after sending one off.

“Will my daughter find someone as rich and decent as this guy?”

“If we refuse to give jahaiz, will the groom’s family consider us poor and lowly?”

They stress and fears play into a ‘compromise’ on the jahaiz, albeit by taking extreme steps.

At the end of the day, the jahaiz becomes a status symbol.

“Thank God, they were able to pull off a decent jahaiz for their daughter” was my mother’s sigh-of-relief response after my cousin got married.

The groom’s family definitely didn’t take the maika for being ‘poor’ but arranging for the jahaiz left them in tatters in real life.

A new Pakistani serial “Miratul Uroos” highlights this issue in an episode where the groom asks for a new car as part of his jahaiz, and his father-in-law pleads and says the family cannot afford one. Thus, the custom of jahaiz applies even today and is very relevant in all strata of our society.

This has to end.

While the generation before us has kept this nonsensical norm alive, the responsibility for its end lies with the generation which has reached the ‘marriageable age’. Boys should take pride in the money they earn and should stop their parents from demanding jahaiz from girls – and the girls should also take a firm stand against it.

If the families are not willing to talk about it, then the couple should clear out the issue with each other before getting into a serious relationship. Cancelling a marriage at the last minute because the one you want to marry cannot produce enough material commitment can be extremely traumatising.

The families that can afford an ‘up to par’ jahaiz should also refrain from the practice, with exception to giving gifts to their daughters. The gifts, if very expensive, should be kept a secret so that others, who cannot spend the same amount of money for their daughters, do not feel obliged to indulge in practices like taking loans which they end up trying desperately to pay off their entire lives.

The practice of giving away jahaiz is outrageous and outdated. When a girl gets married, the only items that need to go with her to the groom’s house should only include her toothbrush, her clothes, her fashion accessories and maybe her favourite pillow.

Do you approve or disapprove of the practice of jahaiz?

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Ema Anis

The social media editor for the web desk at The Express Tribune. She tweets as @EmaAnis (twitter.com/EmaAnis)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.