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Rising Dowries in Kuwait an Obstacle to Marriage

From today’s <a href="“> Arab Times

Rising dowries key problem in failed marriages – survey

KUWAIT, Jan 17, (KUNA): Kuwaiti youth oppose vehemently the extremely high dowries and wedding expenses amid an economic and social downturn in the society due to the current economic crisis, according to a recent academic survey. Dowry is always a bone of contention among the families of bride and bridegroom, said the survey, carried out by the Kuwait University.

Young men are more critical of rising dowries than girls, the study entitled “Social Value of Dowries in Kuwaiti Society”, showed. It highlighted the reality of dowries in Kuwait and their relative significance and social impacts, calling for taking into consideration gender differences and social and cultural changes. The survey involved a sample of 700 men and women aged between 20 and 56 from different areas in the six Kuwaiti governorates. It showed that 78 percent of the sample viewed dowries as exorbitantly high, 82.4 percent considered dowry as the key problem in surging wedding expenses, while 28.1 percent believed that Kuwaiti girls pay too much heed to dowry. The respondents are mostly dissatisfied with dowries, with 85.7 percent of the sampled men and 70 percent of the sampled women believing that dowries are too high.

Sometimes, it is the dowry which determines whether marriage can be completed due to familial hard-mindedness and intransigence, it said. The survey attributed surging dowries to women’s employment, education, lack of acquaintance and girls’ young age. It indicated common gender social awareness of social reflections of uncontrollably rising dowries on the entire Kuwaiti society. For instance, young men are now reluctant to marry Kuwaiti girls, resorting to non-Kuwaiti females, spinsterhood is growing and secret and unofficial marriage cases are mounting, it said. In conclusion, the survey recommended that the culture of moderation, especially regarding dowries, should be disseminated pursuant to the Islamic Sharia’ or Law in bid to alleviate the negative social effects of mounting dowries in the Kuwaiti society.

Young Kuwaiti men have told me that Kuwaiti women “cost too much”, that they would rather marry a hard-working Philipina girl, or a western woman, who will work and help with household expenses, than to borrow the money required to support a Kuwaiti woman.

A young Kuwaiti woman told me it is a growing problem for them, too, as they find themselves facing a dwindling pool of eligible bachelors, and that while the men are supposed to be able to support them in a style the same as they are supported by their father’s household, it doesn’t take into account that their fathers also did not always have so much money. It seems to be that both sexes have a clear idea of what the obstacles and problems are, but no one seems to know what to do about it.

January 18, 2009 - Posted by | Community, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, News, Relationships, Social Issues, Statistics, Women's Issues


  1. I call shenanigans on the article! (rant alert)
    Whenever I read something like this I wonder who these people are. In my circles, Sunni, not Bedouin, we never even talk about the dowry because it’s considered rude and crass. It’s never ever EVER mentioned, girls around me are surprised by their dowry amounts. (I’m not saying that marriage isn’t expensive or that there aren’t unwritten rules about how much to give.)

    But we keep hearing this over and over again, so I wonder if it’s really prevalent in other segments of the population, or if it’s just a myth/stereotype that’s perpetuated by the media/culture.

    Also, whenever I hear “spinsterhood is growing” I get stabby. How’s that measured? Women and men are getting married later in life? And are Kuwaiti to non-Kuwaiti marriages really increasing show me numbers please.

    Hogwash KUNA, Hogwash.

    Comment by G.E&B | January 18, 2009 | Reply

  2. I say you should ask for a minimal dowry and hit him with a HUBUNGOUS amount of money in the marriage contract should he ever want to get divorced. Bada BING.

    A lot of people don’t realize that in Kuwait, what a woman stipulates in the marriage contract is her security (alimony) should dude ever decide he wants to divorce.

    Maybe they should take a closer look at family law if people are concerned about the high price of dowries.

    … and on another note…. What I really enjoy hearing as a foreign woman is, “You are just here to steal our men.” Yeah, that’s riiiiiight.

    Comment by Desert Girl | January 18, 2009 | Reply

  3. GE&B – I have never heard any of the women talk about it, but the guys sure do. Most of them really want to get married, but many complain that they are depressed and overwhelmed by the financial expectations.

    Good point about measuring “spinsterhood.” Maybe measure age at marriage over time and see if there is a changing trend? Maybe measure percentage of Kuwaiti women and men who are married or single in each age group? Maybe measure age of men at marriage and age of women at marriage and take averages?

    I’ve been told, more than once, but good Sunni girls like you, that if they hit 30, their chances for marriage diminish considerably. There is, of course, the additional problem that unless they marry Kuwaiti, their children do not have Kuwaiti nationality – unless people get active and get the law changed.

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 18, 2009 | Reply

  4. Desert Girl – I agree – there is a whole lot to be said for having a divorce-penalty spelled out in the contract! And there is a great need here for good female lawyers and energetic women willing to work hard for some changes to family law.

    They really say that to you??? Really??? Holy smokes!

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 18, 2009 | Reply

  5. the same story in India. it seems this problem is trapping the globe.

    Comment by kaifeeanwer | January 18, 2009 | Reply

  6. In some places in India, isn’t it the bride’s family who pays dowry for the groom, Kaifee? Is it the same in all places, or different in some places from other places?

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 18, 2009 | Reply

  7. yes it is intlxpatr! 🙂 i was musing over it too, bemusedly!! 🙂 the scene is completely the reverse. but the womenfolk being more liberated these days and financially independent, the concept has decreased considerably, though it is very pevailent in the rural areas still, but definetely on the wane.

    Comment by onlooker | January 18, 2009 | Reply

  8. Ability to earn gives us more leverage in our relationships, don’t you think, Onlooker? I know in my own country, dependance on a man to provide kept many women in abusive and destructive relationships, and of course that behavior is watched and adapted by the children who observe, it’s like a disease flowing through generations, who think it’s OK to hit or denigrate someone weaker than oneself. Much of this changes when a woman can leave, support her children. When she has that leverage, there is even room for behavior to change, motivation for behavior to change in a dysfunctional relationship. People CAN change – they have to want to. Being the “controller,” the earner, the more-highly-valued-one isn’t good for the person who is controlling, either, I am thinking.

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 19, 2009 | Reply

  9. yes true intlxpatr. it definitely changes many a thing, financial independence. way people look up at you, be it your mate or the children or the people on the street too.

    Comment by onlooker | January 19, 2009 | Reply

  10. And maybe the way we see ourselves, Onlooker! 🙂

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 19, 2009 | Reply

  11. We hardly ever talk about dowry within my family and we absolutely NEVER talk about dowry with our friends.

    You know we keep hearing that Kuwaiti girls cost too much over and over again but we keep seeing Kuwaiti wives participating in the costs of everything including household items and salaries of domestic help, cost of private schools for the kids, etc. Hell I’ve even heard of some guys actually asking their wives to give them their bank cards!

    I can’t imagine any of my friends specifying huge dowry amounts and am tempted to believe that Kuwaiti men tend to impose this obligation of paying a high dowry upon themselves so they can appear more capable before the eyes of society and specifically the eyes of the family into whom they want to marry. I am rich thus you should be proud I am marrying your daughter! So I am guessing they keep waiting and saving more and more money and then blaming the girls for costing so much without ever having asked if this is TRULY a requirement. Guys, it really isn’t.

    Don’t get me wrong, a high dowry is a nice plus. But a good man is priceless and it doesn’t take a genius to know that.

    Comment by 1001Nights | January 21, 2009 | Reply

  12. Good point, 1001 Nights, and something you would know, being on the inside, that I wouldn’t, being on the outside. I am betting GE&B (see above) would agree with you. I am so impressed, and a little intimidated, at how highly educated, professional and capable the Kuwaiti women are. They are awesome, indeed. 🙂

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 21, 2009 | Reply

  13. Thanks habeebty 🙂 I got a kick out of GEB’s response too !

    Comment by 1001Nights | January 21, 2009 | Reply

  14. I have no idea what constitutes a ”high dowry” but Islamic family laws being what they are, I think it is only reasonable the woman should have something to fall back on, and I think desert girl has the best solution.
    I do think it’s silly to put yourself up to your neck into debts for a ridiculously expensive weddingparty. It could take only a few couples to decide they can have a small but elegant gathering, with less ostentation to change the fashion.

    It’s really interesting to hear from real Kuwaiti women on the subject. Maybe it’s just an ongoing media-spin, and exists only in the minds of editors…

    Comment by Aafke | January 21, 2009 | Reply

  15. Amongst the Kuwait bedouin, there is a set mahr rate for the girls..its like 6500 KD. Plus the Kuwaiti govt gives an amount as well..I cant remember what it is, but I remember it was fairly high. These women do not exactly suffer when they marry, not amonst the bedu.

    But, coming from my own experience I can tell you that the best way to enter into a marriage is to have a minimal dowry (think of the cost of a modest engagement ring as a guideline perhaps…or a ring itself, some nice but not extravagant piece of jewelery, depending upon the mans ability) and put a HUGE amount for a divorce mahr.

    As others have said, what is written within the womans contract is her security, it is the only form of alimony she is going to get, aside from the one year that she is entitled to by Kuwaiti law, after the divorce happens.

    I am inclined to believe that it is more amongst the bedouin that a mahr is openly talked about; I think it is considered rude amongst the hader to speak of it much. Just the girls father and the man would usually discuss it and come to an agreement..I dont think the girl would ever enter into that.

    I have friends (non bedouin) in Saudi and in Kuwait and I notice there is a big difference in this area in particular; amongst the bedu its all about the rights she is entitled to, whereas amongst the hader its more about their future and prosperity and more of a partnership, and it just seems more logical to me, I guess. Less harsh, more nurturing. Thats just my opinion though, based on my own experience.

    Comment by Huda | January 25, 2009 | Reply

  16. The simplest solution would be to marry an Indian wife – get
    her dowry – then pay that dowry to marry a Kuwati wife . It
    is not for nothing that the problem comes with its own
    solution — Globalization . Long live polygymy .

    Comment by Shahid Malik | February 25, 2009 | Reply

  17. Shahid – I have heard very few women say they are happy their husband took another wife. I am guessing the Indian woman would be less that delighted to have her husband take a second wife, and the Kuwaiti wife would be less than delighted to be second. Other than that, your solution works!

    Comment by intlxpatr | February 26, 2009 | Reply

  18. One interesting situation is when a Kuwaiti man wants to marry an American girl and he offers her dowry for the marriage to be consummated properly as per sharia ,the American liberated women will usually shout back angrily ” WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING OFFERING ME MONEY , DO THINK YOU ARE BUYING YOUR SELF A COW ???? ” LOL

    Comment by daggero | February 26, 2009 | Reply

  19. daggero, that’s only because Americans are not aware of all the rules, and the real reason for mahr.
    I’m informed now, offer me mahr and see what happens! :mrgreen:

    Comment by Aafke | February 26, 2009 | Reply

  20. LOL, Daggero, most of my friends here are married to Kuwaiti men. I have heard a LOT of stories, most of them heartwarming, about how they were welcomed to Kuwait by their husband’s families, but not one of these women was ever offered a dowry! Not one! Their husbands were mostly struggling young students when they met, and the marriages – amazing in that most of them have been married longer than twenty years – are very much partnership marriages.

    Aafke, sweet friend, be very careful what you ask for . . . God laughs at us, and teaches us lessons when we make rash statements like that! 😉

    Comment by intlxpatr | February 26, 2009 | Reply

  21. Afke ; i would rather go DUTCH on your offer

    Intlxpatr ;

    OMG , No One of your friends was offered a Dowry , Holy smokes , how can that be ???

    what struggling kuwaiti students , they are all on scholarship and driving sports cars speaking of which , i think your friends were taken for a ride .

    But not to worry ,it is not to late to ask for that Dowry back , lets see hmmmm ,
    the going rate now is KD 5000 , that’s equal $17250 , less $1000 per year depreciation for 20 years ,that leaves minus $2750 , SO your friends each should pay her husband about 1000 KD and we call it even .

    Comment by daggero | February 26, 2009 | Reply

  22. LOL, Daggero. I think it is amazing that so many people have made these marriages work for so many years. I think, because it is cross-cultural, that maybe they work harder.

    Comment by intlxpatr | February 27, 2009 | Reply

  23. Hey everyone, do you have any idea how I can get a sample of the survey itself. I need it for some research I’m doing. It would be a great help if you could tell me how to get it or if you can refer to me to any source where I can get surveys done about marriage in the Middle East. My e-mail address is, would appreciate the help.
    Thank you,
    Mayy El-Sheikh

    Comment by Mayy El-Sheikh | March 2, 2009 | Reply

  24. You will want to read this article in today’s Al Watan:

    Comment by intlxpatr | March 2, 2009 | Reply

  25. Dowry should be simpolic and not be a burdin on families, in some cultures in Kuwait they demand high prices, in my circle the dowry is 20 or 40 KD only.

    Comment by AMD | March 3, 2009 | Reply

  26. May I suggest that any Man who wants to pay a symbolic dowry of 20 or 40 kd should have a symbolic marriage and be made to sleep alone and see how much fun is that going to be .

    أتغشمر معاك

    just kidding 🙂

    Comment by daggero | March 3, 2009 | Reply

  27. From what I hear, the dowry is often an obstacle to marriage, AMD, so I think your idea is a good one. One question, though, is that when divorce is so easy, what does a woman have to protect herself and her children if the man decides to leave? Or to take a second wife? My understanding is that the dowry helps her survive.

    Daggero – LLOOLL. Does your wife see your comments???

    Comment by intlxpatr | March 3, 2009 | Reply

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