Syrians request daughters’ dowries in gold

Women in front of a gold shop in the traditional al-Hamidiyah bazaar in Damascus (lookphotos)

Women in front of a gold shop in the traditional al-Hamidiyah bazaar in Damascus (lookphotos)

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Enab Baladi – Muhammed Fansa

“I want to secure my daughter’s future. No one knows what might happen these days. Gold maintains its intrinsic value, unlike the pound.” Nashat, 45, justifies the motive behind his request to register 100 grams of gold as his daughter’s “delayed” dowry, which is a trend that has become noticeable for newly married couples or even for old couples wishing to adjust the old dowry.

Nashat, from the border town of Salqin with Turkey, had his daughter betrothed to a young man from outside the area. The young man was heading to Turkey illegally through smugglers, so Nashat asked for a high dowry because he did not know the young man on the one hand and because his daughter was heading to a “foreign” country, where she had no relatives on the other hand.

Nashat described the dowry to Enab Baladi as a “protection means” for girls under all circumstances.

On January 21, the judge at the Third Shariah Court in Damascus, Khaled Jundiyeh, stated that most of the marriage contracts registered in the recent period are for cases from inside or outside Syria, in which the dowry is registered in gold instead of money, according to the difference in the value recorded between Syrians inside and outside.

The case of registering dowries in golden liras “increased dramatically” due to the economic changes in the country, including the deterioration of the living conditions of the majority of society’s segments, inflation, and the depreciation of the Syrian pound (lira), Jundiyeh explained.

The judge attributed the reason for the high value of dowries registered abroad compared to marriage contracts registered within Syria to the deteriorating living conditions.

According to the latest pricing of the Craft Association for Goldsmithing and Jewelry Industry in Damascus, the price of the gold lira in Syria is three million and 116,000 Syrian pounds, while the price of a gram of 21 karat gold, in early February, reached 357,000 pounds for sale, and 356,500 pounds for purchase.

Not only did many turn to the new registered contracts, but the matter coincided with an amendment to the old marriage contracts in which the dowry was unpaid.

This is done by mutual consent between the spouses by submitting a request to the Shariah court, which amends the dowry to golden liras after the Shariah judge confirms the couple’s desire, according to Jundiyeh.

To preserve women’s rights

Futoun, 39, from the northern city of Aleppo, recently amended her marriage contract at the Shariah court, replacing her old dowry registered in the Syrian pound with gold liras, as her old marriage contract included a paid and deferred dowry of 300,000 Syrian pounds, to become three gold liras each.

Regarding the reason for her request to change the value of the old dowry, Futoun told Enab Baladi that the dowry, with its previous value, has lost its role in protecting women’s rights agreed upon by the Islamic Shariah, given the depreciation of the Syrian pound over the years.

The social researcher, Eva Atfeh, explained to Enab Baladi that the families’ request for a dowry of a more stable value, such as gold instead of the Syrian pound, is due to preserving women’s rights, considering them the “most vulnerable” class in society, in the face of their exposure to marital infidelity or any problem that leads to divorce.

Atfeh indicated that the dowry is determined by the father or mother according to the existing societal customs and traditions, while in the event that the engagement is based on a love relationship or previous knowledge, the girl will not demand a dowry in the form of gold, as it will not be of importance to her.

And whether the modification or registration of the dowry in gold is evidence of “weak trust” between the two parties, Atfeh sees that the registration of the dowry in this way results from societal customs and traditions.

She indicated families’ identification with the surrounding society, as the family asks about the dowries that are requested at the same period from the surrounding families to ask for the same form or value or higher than it.

The social researcher believes that the relationship between a man and a woman is reduced to the dowry’s value when the woman becomes a “commodity” or if the woman wants to “brag” about the value of the dowry that her husband gave her.

Atfeh stressed that the high value of dowries does not protect against disintegration and that when there is no harmony, understanding, or ability to solve and overcome the daily problems that appear in the marital relationship, the dowries will not prevent separation, as love, caring, and mutual respect are the factors that maintain a healthy relationship. 

The researcher added that high dowries may play a reverse role in the durability of the relationship and be a reason for exerting psychological pressure on the husband.

The dowry is a “social heritage” that does not raise the value of women but rather classifies them as a “commodity,” Atfeh believes.

This can only change when a woman is empowered economically and educationally so that she is able to determine the dowry she wants without fear of consequences after marriage because then she will not be choosing a breadwinner but a partner, the researcher concluded.

What is the legality of registering a dowry in gold?

The Shariah judge, Khaled Jundiyeh, clarified whether approving the issue of adjusting the dowry deviated from a legal rule that the issue of the wife’s right to amend the old dowry that she did not collect from her husband, according to what was stipulated in Article (54) of the Personal Status Law, does not violate the law, given that the Shariah marriage is “of a special nature” that cannot be measured on civil marriage contracts.

According to Syrian law, when registering the dowry in gold, it must be appended to the registration of its current value according to the Syrian pound, which is the official currency, lawyer Hussam Sarhan told Enab Baladi.

In the event that the divorce takes place after a period, the gold is calculated when claiming the dowry at its new value in Syrian pounds in the event that the registered gold is not available in kind, Sarhan added.

As for amending the old dowry to a new one with gold, it is considered “permissible,” provided that both parties appear before the Shariah judge after submitting an administrative request, and confirming their agreement to the new conditions, according to the lawyer.

The amendment of the marriage contract does not violate the legality of civil contracts as long as it is done with the consent of the parties involved in the contract, legally or socially.

The Syrian Personal Status Law No. 59 of 1953 did not allow the registration of gold for dowries, as it was limited to the Syrian pound only, but its articles were amended in February 2019, allowing this registration.

Families tend to register dowries in gold due to the deterioration of the Syrian pound in recent years, as the value of the pound declined against the US dollar by up to 100% on an annual basis during the year 2022, in a decline that is considered the largest against the dollar recorded in its history.

Divorce rates in Syria have increased significantly in recent years until they became close to the rates of ongoing marriages, as the latest statistics published in July 2022 revealed that for every 29,000 marriages, 11,000 divorces occur.

Counselor Judge Walid Kalsali revealed that the percentage of divorce cases reached 50% of the marriage cases.

“Upon reviewing the Shariah courts and during scrutiny of what was mentioned by the spouses during the private arbitration sessions, it became clear that the reasons for requesting separation that were received by the courts are economic, social, and cultural,” Kalsali said.

 

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