A dowry is a gift of money or valuables given by the bride's family to that of the groom to permit their marriage. In societies where payment of dowry is common, unmarried women are seen to attract stigma and tarnish the household's reputation, so it is in the bride's family's interest to marry off their daughter as soon as she is eligible. In some areas where this is practiced, the size of the necessary dowry is directly proportional to the groom's social standing, thus making it virtually impossible for lower class women to marry into upper class families. In some cases where a woman's family is too poor to afford any dowry whatsoever, she is either simply forbidden from ever marrying, or at most becomes a concubine to a richer man who can afford to support a large household.
The tradition of giving dowries is perhaps most well-known in the country of India, where it is still very common, especially in rural areas, despite being prohibited by law as of 1961. Dowries were also important social components of Roman marriages.
Mahr does not have to be money but nearly always is. Mahr is usually negotiated before marriage, but in instances where mahr is not agreed upon, a Muslim judge can determine the amount at a later date.
For mahr to be enforceable, the agreement must meet the standards of state law applying to all ante-nuptial contracts.
Mahr was defined in the contract as "a ring advanced and half the husband's possessions postponed." The court decided that the reference to "half" the husband's possessions was not clear and specific enough to be enforceable as a contractual term.
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