In a recent attempt to curb the traditional practice of dowry, the Lahore High Court (LHC) has ordered the Punjab government to introduce a new legislation making it necessary to list dowry items in the marriage certificate. The aim behind the legislation is to ensure the protection of the woman later in the marriage, and to make it easier for her to recover those items at the termination of the marital contract.

While the move should be commended, it must also be kept in mind that the legislation does not ensure the end of the practice that results in the death of 2000 women per year, and it does not ensure relief from financial strain caused due to borrowing money for dowry. Listing down the dowry items reinforces the fact that the practice is worthy of continuation.

Another recommendation made by LHC is that brides should be educated about matters of dowry, so that they can report and expose families asking for dowry. However, LHC is forgetting the power dynamics that exist within society. A bride will be in no position to stand up against the practice if that ultimately leads to a divorce.

The law should be strong enough to ensure her safety and eliminating the ordeal altogether. Legislation should be made keeping in view the fact that in essence, dowry is not a mandatory ritual. It is only acceptable in a case where the parents of the bride willingly want to give something to her and not to her spouse.

The practicality of the legislation is also something that needs to be accounted for. Who will ensure that there is no off the record give and take? Who will ensure that the parents of the bride are not cornered into giving more dowry without the knowledge of the law? Who will ensure prosecution of the those guilty of such offenses?

The right move in such circumstances is to completely ban the act. The precedent has already been set by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government. Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) introduced a bill seeking three months’ worth of jail time and Rs 200,000 fine for anyone involved in the give and take of dowry. If the bill has been passed in KP, the Punjab government can certainly take a step further and move towards complete ban on dowry.