What is Dower?
The Mahr/Dower is something that is paid by the husband to his wife. It is paid to the wife only as an honour and respect and to show that he has a serious desire to marry her and is not simply entering into the marriage contract without any sense of responsibility and obligation or effort on his part.
Dower becomes payable immediately after the marriage and must be paid on demand. If the dower is not paid the wife could refuse to stay with her husband and also can take legal action. The wife is under the Muslim law entitled to refuse herself to her husband until and unless the dower is paid.
The verse of the Quran
Allah says in the Qur’an, “Wa aatoo an-nisaa’a saduqaatihinna nihlatan…”
Meaning: And give the women their dower with a good heart…
This verse is addressed to the husband because it is their responsibility to pay the dower. This verse shows that the dower must be given to the wife.
Amount of Dower
Though there is no fixed amount of dower, usually dower is fixed at the time of marriage according to the status of the husband and mentioned in the Kabin Nama (marriage deed). But in any case, the money cannot be less than 10 Dirham (1 Dirham = 18 taka app.).
Section 5 of the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939 states that, “Nothing contained in this Act shall affect any right which a married woman may have under Muslim law to her dower or any part thereof on the dissolution of her marriage. ”
Time period for Filing Suit for Dower
After Talaq if the husband does not pay the dower money to the wife, then for that dower money wife has to file a suit within 3 years after Talaq.
Reasons for not getting Dower from husband
Dower is a woman’s right to marital property. In practice, often a woman in Bangladesh does not receive her legal right of dower from husband due to various reasons, such as:
• Dower is controlled by husband and social custom,
• Unregistered marriage,
• Non-specification of the mode of payment of dower in the Kabin Nama,
• Lack of awareness of laws on dower,
• Fixation of a smaller amount of dower by the groom’s party,
• The traditional concept of usool (paid) by jewelry or other items at the time of marriage,
• The customary practice to waive dower in the wedding night,
• Hidden intention to deprive the bride from property rights,
• Lack of husband’s sense of responsibility towards the payment of dower,
• Dower is being curtailed by turning a talaq case into khula where the woman has to sacrifice her right of dower in exchange for a divorce etc.
In this way, the cases of dower are influenced by social practice and the question of payment arises only at the time of divorce. Consequently, a woman loses her property rights which she is entitled to both under the Shariah and statutory laws.
Non-payment of Dower in case of Divorce by the Wife
There are some misconceptions regarding the payment of dower in Bangladesh. It is already mentioned that dower is a sum or property that a Muslim woman is entitled to get from her husband on marriage. According to Islamic law, where there is a marriage there is a dower. It is a bridal gift. Under Muslim law, a marriage is not valid without dower. So there is no connection of dower with divorce, rather it is connected with marriage only. Unfortunately, the dower is not paid out during the marriage. As such, the question of dower arises at the time of divorce. Many people think that if a woman divorces her husband she will not get any dower money and if the husband divorces his wife, then only in that case the wife will get the unpaid dower. But when a woman wants to divorce her husband, it is assumed that she is not entitled to get the dower. So most of the people relate dower with divorce, not with marriage. They think that dower is payable in the case of the dissolution of marriage by husband only. But if the wife wants a divorce then the husband refuses to pay the dower money. This is the real scenario in our country.
After divorce, if the husband does not pay the dower, the wife has to file a suit before the court to claim the dower within three years after the divorce which is a very lengthy process and also very complex. So most of the women and their families don’t want to file any suit for the recovery of dower because of various reasons. Thus the dower remains unpaid in almost every cases of divorce by the wife.
This is totally a misconception of people because the dower is connected with marriage, not with divorce. So if a man marries a woman, he must pay the dower. It is an absolute right of a Muslim woman to get the dower even if she initiates the divorce. The wife is entitled to dower even if there is no divorce. Husband or wife whoever gives Talaq, dower money must be paid to the wife. So divorce is not a relevant matter here.
We have to remove this misconception from our mind and we have to aware people about this matter. Here, social awareness is very necessary to remove this misconception. Though we have legal instruments concerning the dower and recovery of the dower still it is noticeable that women are being deprived of their right of dower. In the payment of dower, husbands are in most of the cases shows reluctance. So people of all levels should come forward to solve the problem. Otherwise, the whole nation will suffer badly.
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