Marriage, Dowry, and Women’s Status in Rural Punjab, Pakistan

Discussion Papers

No.534

by Momoe MAKINO

September 2015

ABSTRACT

Dowry is a common custom observed in South Asian countries. It has been a target of an opposition movement because it is assumed to be a root cause of women’s mistreatment, for example, in the form of sex-selective abortion, girls’ malnutrition, female infanticide, and domestic homicide called “dowry murder.” Despite its alleged evil consequences and the legal ban or restrictions on it, the custom has been extended, and recently, the dowry amount seems to be increasing. However, there is little empirical evidence of dowry’s effects. This study empirically investigates the effects of dowry on women’s status in rural Pakistan. We conducted a unique survey in rural Punjab, Pakistan, to explore the marriage practices there and to answer the research question. Results show that a higher dowry amount enhances women’s status in the marital household. This implies that an outright ban on dowries does not necessarily improve women’s welfare at this time.

Keywords: Dowry, Intrahousehold decision making, Women’s status, Marriage, Pakistan
JEL classification: J12, J16, N35, Z13

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