An article by Dr. Rakhshinda Perveen published by the Asian Human Rights Commission
Violence inherent in dowry is continuously facing exclusion. It therefore does not appear as the major, and most prevalent, form of violence – not only against women and girls, but men as well – in the Islamic republic of Pakistan.
The reasons for this selective amnesia are multiple. The greed of the corporate media, dividends gained by the banking industry in offering loans for dowry, money earned by the hotel, catering, and poultry industries, the elite capture of the development sector, and an elitist consensus are just to name a few.
As a result, dowry demand, dowry practice, and resultant physical and psychological dowry abuses are being accepted as normative in the hypocritical societies of my country, where women and others in disadvantaged positions are “killed” in the name of family and / or religious honour, but dowry demand and related abuses are not considered an insult to masculinity or being absolute contradictions to religious teachings and spirit.
As a victim turned survivor of violence, I have been raising this issue single-handedly at different forums in my country and earning the wrath of the mighty. Apparently, the movers and shakers of the liberal segments of the civil society endorse the cause and struggle against dowry. But, in reality, they make every effort to undermine the issue, reduce it to being an issue of their servants and do not mainstream it in advocacy, activism and academia.
I kept on getting this feedback that “Rakhshinda wants to kill our personal lives, happiness”.
Anti dowry legislation and public policies affecting media has nothing to do with happiness.
Any decent society must not nurture culture of greed, harm, pretentions, and vulgar display of power and wealth. Any decent society and state must be responsible and mature enough to maintain human dignity and esteem.
Since dowry practices, including lavish weddings, mar these core values necessary for human development, I kept on demanding for a dowry violence free society in Pakistan. I kept on demanding that the governments promulgate an anti dowry legislation.
I have no qualms in sharing that some accomplished development practitioners and activists continue to ridicule this “fight” and challenge me in the following manner: “why do not you draft a legislation?”, “o you are asking for moon”, and “yes dowry is a problem but of my domestic servant”.
In my 21 years of conscious fight against dowry violence I have experienced three moments of “relative optimism”.
The first one was in 2003, when the first, and to date, maiden day national Fight Against Dowry workshop for Focal persons of FADAN was organized at Islamabad, and the Dowry and Bridal Gifts Restriction Act, 1976, was reviewed.
However, the suggestion to prohibit dowry went unheard and instead then Ministry of Law & Justice increased the permissible dowry amount to Rupees 50,000, thus subtly strengthening the practice as an institution.
The second time was in 2009 when I was able to initiate and conduct a pioneering national research study on dowry violence in Pakistan, in collaboration with UNIFEM (now UNWOMEN). The research, entitled “Forgotten”, was finally published, after being filtered by concerned bureaucracies in 2012, which took the “venom” out.
The third time was in October 2015, when, surprisingly, a collaboration activity got materialized, and with the National Human Rights Comission, FADAN was able to highlight the issues of dowry related violence at the policy level, for increasing awareness among stakeholders and lobbying for an effective legislation against this form of highly prevalent violence, not only against women and girls but men and boys as well, in their roles as fathers and brothers, responsible for financing marriage ceremonies of daughters and sisters, and as boys / men who cannot get the right match because of a harmful cultural practice: “vulvar” / bride price. With the exception ofPakistan Observer & The News (to the best of my knowledge) no other newspapers and media covered the event.
I believe in the miracles of legislation and political will, but I have faith in the power of passion too.
Therefore, following consultations with a select group of media persons, activists, researchers, and human rights advocates, FADAN has decided to raise its voice against Dowry violence and mark 17 November 2015, as “The First Anti Dowry Violence Day In Pakistan”.
This would also serve as a warm up activity for the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence starting from November 25.
The AHRC is not responsible for the views shared in this article, which do not necessarily reflect its own.
About the Author:
Dr. Rakhshinda Perveen is founding Chair of the Fight Against Dowry Advocacy Network (FADAN)-Pakistan. The author is a public health & gender expert and tweets from @survivorwins. Her email is email@example.com