Pakistan Institute of Development Economics



Marriage Patterns in A Rural Agglomeration

Marriage is one of the most significant events in the life of an individual and from demographic point of view is a vital event leading to further reproduction and continuity of the human race. The concept of marriage has been common to all societies, though it carries structural and functional variations according to different environmental conditions. A Muslim marriage is both a devotional act as well as a contract between the spouses—based on the mutual acceptance of the bride and the groom and the fixation of mehr, which a husband has to give as a gift to his wife. Because of the sanctity of marriage as a religious institution and the only acceptable recourse for fulfilling the mating instinct between the male and the female the tendency in many Muslim societies has been to involve the two individuals into the bond of marriage as early as possible. The emphasis in Islamic traditions on virginity tends to favour marriage at an early age. Even though the value of mehr should be fixed equal to an amount which a man can easily afford to pay to his wife, economic and social considerations of the present-day society have increased the acceptable value of mehr considerably, which tends to increase the age at marriage of both the male and the female. The explanation for this is that the male spends a good part of hi# life to reach a level of economic independence. The female, on the other hand, has to wait for her marriage until her parents have saved enough money for the arrangement of dowry and also for the expenditure to be incurred on the marriage ceremony. It may be pointed out here that the religious values do not favour large expenditure on dowry, but the present-day economic considerations determine, to a large extent, the nature and the amount of dowry. A higher expectation of dowry is usually associated with a higher demand of mehr to be pledged by the husband. The main purpose of fixing a high mehr is to use it as a deterrent to divorce by the husband. The age at marriage and the value of mehr, therefore, are influenced by the socio-cultural norms of the society.

M. Iqbal Hashmi, Mohammad Afzal, N.H. Nizami

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