The Motivations Behind Giving and Taking Dowry

Much of what is written about dowry focuses on the harmful aspects. This monograph argues that in order to target dowry as a social problem, we need to know more about why people continue the practice. It gives an overview of the transactions connected to wedding and divorce before it explores the motivations people have for giving and taking dowry. In the end, it is discussed how this rationality meets the rationality of the government and NGOs in the local interpretation and use of legislation and in the use of microcredit. Security is found to be the main motivation for giving dowry. A paid dowry gives hope that the daughter will be treated well in her in-law’s house. Because dowry is connected to mohr, it also gives security in case of divorce. However, a paid dowry does not give women entitlements towards her in-laws, only a hope that they will treat her well. Also, women’s entitlement to mohr depends on payment of dowry as well as her performance as a wife. Men, on the other hand, are perceived as having an unquestioned entitlement to dowry. This imbalance is seen as being connected to a perception of women as being vulnerable to physical and social risk as well as representing a threat to their family and community. In conclusion, it is recommended that instead of targeting dowry directly, advocacy efforts would gain from targeting the causes behind the motivations for giving and taking dowry. Reducing the risk factors that make married status and dowry crucial for women is a way to combat the practice. One way to do this is by implementing livelihood programs for adolescent girls. Apart from this, the prevailing gender ideology has to be challenged systematically among both girls and boys from an early age. The monograph is based on qualitative research in Domar under Nilphamari district in Bangladesh.

Authors: Geirbo, Hanne Cecilie; Imam, Nuzhat
Type: Monograph
Year: 2006