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Surge in gold prices disturbs matrimonial customs in Pakistan

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ISLAMABAD: It’s looks very hard to imagine and feel the sorrow and pain of Iqbal Huaasin, 26 years old Pakistani bridegroom, whose dreams to marry were shattered when his In-Laws beat him and his family for gifting fake gold jewelry to the bride on the day of his marriage.

Hussain, who earns Rs15,000 ($176) per month by working in a textile factory in Pakistan’s industrial city of Faisalabad, could not bought jewelry made of 60 grams gold , a promised demand from the bride’s family, due to the surge in gold price.

“The date of marriage was at our heads but there was no money to purchase gold, then someone suggested us to cheat them with gold coated artificial jewelry,” Abdur Rasheed, Hussain’s cousin, told Xinhua.

On July 17, 2011 the bridegroom’s marriage procession reached the bride’s home and presented the jewelry but half an hour later more than two dozen men started baton charge over them and kicked them out for gifting fake gold.

As gold price hits record highest $1,746 per ounce, many would-be couples and their families have to postpone or even cancel their scheduled wedding ceremonies as it has become very tough for both sides to purchase gold dowry.

Teachings of Islam, the dominating religion of Pakistan, prohibit strictly the dowry tradition but here one should not dream about wedding without gold because centuries old local traditions still dominate religion and modern ideas.

“I was also engaged to marry, but we had to postpone wedding because we could not purchase extremely high priced gold,” Rasheed was telling his own sad story, “and finally one day my fiance married with another man.” Pakistan ranks at 23rd position with 184.4 tones of gold among the countries that keep maximum gold reserves.

In Pakistan traditionally families have to gift around 80 grams of gold jewelry to a bride. But in the financially disturbed country that stands at 13th number in the world for gold consumption for jewelry, where 40 per cent people out of total around 187 million live below poverty line under rising unemployment, where average per capita GDP is $2,449 it has become impossible for middle income people to purchase the said amount of gold.

Gold jewelry is status symbol more than any need in Pakistan, where usually no bride thinks herself complete without a number of gold ornaments like rings, ear rings, bracelets and necklaces. Before the departure of the bride with her husband her family members show off the jewelry to guests to maintain their so called status.

After the wedding, mostly brides like to wear gold jewelry in routine life and some like it occasionally. Usually, in poor and middle class families parents of the both groom and bride provide gold however in rich families bride’s family purchases most of the gold.

On one side poor are struggling for a few grams of gold while on the other side rich families remain busy in competition each other to give maximum gold to their daughters.

Mostly parents become cautious about the savings for wedding of their daughter soon after her birth and those who could not save enough money they sale their land and other belongings or borrow to save their faces in the society which finally leave them in debt and misery.

A police official told Pakistan Times that almost 30 to 40 per cent dacoits who were arrested revealed that they started crimes to make money for the marriage of their sisters or daughters.

Two years ago average families feel easy to gift around 100-150 grams gold jewelry when gold rate was around Rs21,000 ($247) per 10 grams but now it looks impossible to purchase such amount at $561 per 10 grams. Some families take risk gifting fake or gold-plated jewelry but some time it does not work because grooms’ in-laws appear as experts to verify the purity of the gold that finally spoils the relations and trust.

But many families, with mutual understandings, now have started to adopt artificial or gold-plated jewelry to arrange their children marriage in time. This trend has also given a boom to the fake gold jewelry business in the country.

“Due to the increase of inflation and gold prices people are adopting artificial jewelry, with it our business also got developed many times,” said Shabir Hussain, owner of an artificial jewelry shop in Islamabad’s super market. But rising gold prices and fake jewelry trend also affected the gold business in the country.

Waseem Akhtar, a jeweler from Rawalpindi city, told that record high gold prices had affected their business negatively. “Our customers who could easily managed to bought 80 grams gold for only $2000 two years ago are unable to spend $5,000 for the same amount of gold, this thing has dropped our sales drastically,” Akhtar added.

Postponement of marriages and threat of not getting any good proposal without gold have put Pakistani young girls and boys to search some short ways. According to official data, at least 240 couples had registered their marriages in Islamabad courts without involving their families during the first seven months of the 2011.

The figure is much higher than that of last year’s 200 court marriages as at the end of the year it will possibly cross 400, said Qari Imdad, a wedding registrar, adding that inflation, increasing poverty and gold rates are the main reasons behind court marriages.

A newly married couple Muhammad Faizan and Huda told that their Parents were not paying attention to their marriages even they were going to touch 30s so no option left with them but to go for court marriage, which was very economical.

Sociologist believed that for decades running criticism and campaigns against dowry could not motivate Pakistanis but now extremely high gold rate is hopefully teaching them a good lesson to alter their materialistic matrimonial traditions otherwise social evils emerging from it will swallow their peace of life. -Xinhua

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Rabia Abbashttp://www.pak-times.com
Rabia Abbas is working for Pakistani Chapter of European NGO, 3Oth (Third World Talent Hunt) having Master degree in Business Administration. She is passionate to explore innovative ways of art, entertainment, fashion and to carry on uniqueness and to wake up the creativity in each person. She contributes on Pakistan Times to promote Pakistani Culture and Art within Youth.
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