Madiha’s only crime was that she was unable to bring a motorbike in her dowry

Published: March 12, 2017
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More than 8,000 women are killed every year in India in dowry-related offences. PHOTO: AFP

Madiha was a 22-year-old girl in Gujranwala who had just gotten married. You know how it is for newly-wed girls; the apprehension, the stress of adjusting to a new home, the worries about making everyone like you and leaving your family behind.

For Madiha, these worries became small compared to the horror she ended up facing.

Her husband, Amir, would beat her regularly. Madiha’s crime? She was unable to bring a motorbike for Amir in her dowry. Two months or so after the wedding, Amir and his family doused Madiha with petrol and set her on fire. She died within a short period of time.

A 22-year-old newly married girl doused in petrol, killed for greed. Killed for something that was beyond her control and her doing.

In 2015, in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), a man shot dead his former fiancé and nine of her relatives over a dowry dispute. The family had refused the demand of the man’s father for a residential plot in the dowry settlement.

Across the globe, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Iran are one of the few countries where the highest numbers of dowry deaths are recorded. Pakistan kills about 2000 women per year over dowry. Despite the clear laws in the 1976 Dowry and Bridal Gifts (Restriction) Act, Pakistani families come up with very creative ways of killing their daughter-in-laws. One girl was forced to consume poison. There is the involvement of throwing acid, oven-explosions, drugging and petrol dousing. So many of these are termed as ‘accidents’ and so many perpetrators are on the run from the law. What happens to them eventually? Are they ever caught? Are they ever brought to justice? We will never know.

It is therefore commendable of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) lawmaker, Rashida Riffat, to have tabled the bill for a complete ban on giving and taking of dowry in K-P. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government had promised to support the bill and this month, the bill was approved. The law restricts the value of gifts to the bride or the family to Rs10, 000. It is also illegal to force a girl’s family to give dowry or presents of any kind for the sake of marriage. If they do, there is a prison term (two months) and a fine of Rs300, 000.

So beware, greedy in-laws. If you dare want dowry in K-P, you’ll end up paying a heavier fine to the police!

The law also restricts a spending budget on wedding ceremonies which is also a welcome step. Many people, to keep up with the Joneses, stress girls’ families to subscribe to a certain standard of weddings due to which parents and families come under immense financial and social pressure. Families spend their entire lives’ treasures on just a few weeks of frivolity and superficiality.

Other provinces must also adopt such bills since this will help hinder crimes against women, since it is a country-wide problem. Dowry is used as a tool to manipulate, harass and intimidate women and their parents. This idea that a girl will not be respected if she does not bring X or Y amount of dowry is wholly antiquated and should be done away with once and for all. Kudos to the K-P government for taking a brave and strong step. This will surely send a message to many families who have reprehensible ideas about marriage and treating women as commodities rather than human beings.

Mahwash.Badar.

Mahwash Badar

The author is a clinical psychologist, a mum to two boys and permanently in a state of flux. She tweets @mahwashajaz_ (twitter.com/mahwashajaz_)

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

  • Ravi Blr

    Didn’t know muslims have a dowry system. This is one terrible custom that you have borrowed from hindus!Recommend

  • Hoshiar Singh Gill

    Very sad!Recommend

  • Ahmar

    Title doesn’t seem right. What’s next?

    Don’t you mean 2000 women are killed in Pakistan rather than Pakistan kills them?

    “Across the globe, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Iran [u]are one of the few[/u] countries where the highest numbers of dowry deaths are recorded.”

    Proofreader was off sick?Recommend

  • KDP

    This article is for those South Asians to read who talk about their “culture” being superior to that of Western CivilizationRecommend

  • Ghazi Gul

    No particulars of the case were given so it is probably a hypothetical one. Suggests that Hindu culture seems to be coming through the Bollywood portal and contaminating Muslim life style in Pakistan. This should be curbed.

    India is running out of its female population. If this continues soon other aspects of Hindu culture will take hold in Pakistan like aborting female fetuses, burying new born baby girls alive, and gang rapes, all of which are rampant in India. If dowry is already here then can Sitee, the burning alive of brides, and all of those other crimes be far behind. Scary!Recommend

  • Furqan

    I think her only crime was being born to a family that didn’t let her find and select her husband to be. Hit the basics not the aftermath.Recommend

  • Amer

    I didn’t read this blog yesterday because of the title and read it today… then realized it was the same blog that I saw yesterday with the title of Pakistan killing women etc…. grow up express tribune ! ET is extremely distasteful in it’s headlines sometimes and specially if it related to a topic that could blame the whole society ! Let’s assume there are 20 million married couples in Pakistan … just an assumption and 2000 women are killed because of dowry each year… another assumption! That’s 0.01 % ! Grow up ET!Recommend

  • Zubair

    Please note that dowery in KP is demanded by the Bride and not the Bridegroom. The author was definitely in hurry to write the article and miss stated the facts. Here is how the man killed many people on dowry dispute https://tribune.com.pk/story/864825/man-kills-10-in-charsadda-over-marriage-refusal/Recommend

  • disqus_q0fJBDaGHm

    cannot compete with iatrogenic homicides in the US, can’t touch it

    what is with the gross photos of Ellen degenerate?Recommend

  • Eileen Kuch

    Right, Ravi Bir, now, you know. This horrific custom must be abolished yesterday. It’s capital murder to continue with it, and those who instigate and participate in these horrific crimes must face death penalty themselves.
    At least, India did away with Sitee, in which widows were burned alive on their husbands’ funeral pyres. That was another horrendous crime. Now, its time the dowry system is also done away with.Recommend

  • Ritchard

    The cause for this babarity is a no brainer, no diversity.Recommend

  • Dominick Perez

    Who are we to judge another culture? What ever happened to diversity and tolerance? Let them all in now!Recommend

  • Ryan HarrIs

    Agree with Ravi, this ghastly culture of dowry must be abolished on immediate basis not only in Pakistan, but also in Hindus. I’ve seen many Hindu marriages that stopped at the exact time of seven rounds just because of not fulfilled up their “Dowry List” by the family bride.Recommend

  • Ryan HarrIs

    Being Human, that’s our duty to stop others for doing wrong thing.Recommend

  • Ryan HarrIs

    Someone, agree with you for that.Recommend

  • Shaukat

    I think this has been subcontinent’s custom and culture. Where a family would give dowry to their daughters on their weddings. But poor wedded daughters won’t inherit any from their parents properties. This is really a very terrible custom. Brides greedy in laws take their daughter in law’s life if she has brought to their expectations in dowry. There should not be any room for dowry now. In islam it is the husband who is responsible for his wife’s maintenance, her all necessary expenses and her protection as well his children. Recommend