ICES: Impact of Displacement on Dowries

by Danesh Jayatilaka and Kopalapillai Amirthalingam, Centre for Migration Research and Development, Colombo,February 2015

ICES Impact-of-Displacement-on-Dowries-in-Sri-Lanka-Feb-2015-1-FINAL-POSTED

Four Case Studies

The below four small case studies conducted for this desk research corroborate the literature and illustrate some of the issues women recurrently face due to conflict-induced displacement. Their stories provide evidence that marriage, dowries, loss of guardians and assets have major implications on leading a normal life.



Case Study 1:

A wealthy family with four children (two daughters of 23 years and 19 years old) was displaced and lost all their properties but not their money and jewelry. Since the father is a government servant he continued to receive a regular salary. The parents invested all their remaining cash and assets in the children’s education. This delayed the oldest daughter’s wedding. Since the father is retiring this year, they hope that the son who has entered the medical faculty will bring in finances and stability to family so they can give their daughters’ dowries.

Case study 2:

A widow who is 40 years old from an average-income family lost all of her assets due to displacement. Soon afterwards her husband died in a road accident. She is raising her daughter who is 8 years old with no help from anyone else. Due to lack of income she joined a school as a clerk and is also studying for a degree with a goal of getting a job with a higher salary. According to the widow, she decided to work and study after having lost everything. She is anxious that her only child will grow up with care and there is a sufficient dowry to attract a suitable partner for her.



Case study 3:

A 50 year old mother with three unmarried daughters of 25, 23 and 21 years old and three young sons is living in a small house she received through the Indian housing scheme. Their father was abducted in 2007 and they now have very little income. Due to the family’s history and the lack of a dowry, the ability of the daughters to marry has not been successful so far. “As long as the dowry system prevails we have no life,” the elder daughter said.

Case study 4:

A 49 year old widow, who has five daughters and one young son, lost her husband due to suicide five years ago. Two of her elder daughters were able to marry without giving dowry, and the other three are doing well with their education. She believes that as the girls are studying they can earn money and find their own way. She also says “there are some boys who do not expect dowry, and I want them to come for my daughters.”


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