JEDDAH – Young Saudi men who launched an online campaign this week against soaring marriage costs are hoping to stir up debate in Saudi society and elicit a decision from the government to put a limit on dowry.
The campaign slogan “Let her become a spinster!” reflects the frustration of Saudi men who would like to settle down and raise a family, but just don’t have the means to get started.
“We should find solutions for the high cost of marriage and the dowry problem,” said Mansour Bin Askar, Professor of Islamic Studies in Riyadh’s King Saud University, commenting on the increasingly popular campaign on websites like asyeh.com. almgha.com. toyota4arab.com, tomaar.com. alhora.com, and montdiatna.com.
“These days many young Saudi men simply cannot afford to get married. That is what this campaign is all about,” said Askar.
Dowry amounts can go into the hundreds of thousands, depending on a family’s status. However, most Saudi families generally demand a dowry of SR50,000 for the bridal wear and jewelry.
According to Askar, SR50,000 is quite reasonable in these days of high inflation.
Askar narrated one instance of how low dowry had a negative effect.
In 1974, the Zahrani tribe in the south of the Kingdom decided to decrease the amount of dowry to SR3,000 so as to enable young Zahrani men to marry.
However, when this happened a large number of men started to get married and then divorced several times, Askar said.
“The head of the Zahrani tribe discovered that Saudi men do not appreciate a woman if her dowry is too low, which is why he decided to raise the dowry again,” said Askar.
The Shariah does not specify the amount of the dowry leaving it up to the bride’s family.
While religious experts have confirmed the need to decrease the dowry amount, some young Saudi men, especially those of tribal origin, remain keen on marrying Saudi girls despite the high dowries.
Abdul Aziz Al-Utaibi,who has just graduated from a nursing college and is looking for a job, is one such young Saudi man.
“I appeal to the Saudis who have started the campaign to stop it. On the one hand a dowry of SR50,000 is high, especially for newly graduated students, but on the other, the bride needs to buy a lot of things and she cannot do so with the way prices keep rising.”
Mnala Sobhi, a Saudi housewife from Makkah, agrees that dowry should be decreased, especially if the man is young and has just graduated from university. “In the Western Province, the situation is different. For example, my husband gave SR25,000 as dowry and bought gold worth SR8,000.”
“Society, especially the tribes, should make it easier for young Saudis to get married,” she said. – SG