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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 .
The converse of a dowry is a bride price.
Mehr means dowry in Arabic, and is an important part of an Islamic marriage. It is more similar to a bride price than a traditional dowry, in that the husband gives the gift to the bride. However, unlike a bride price, the gift is given directly to the bride and not to her father. Although the gift can be, and often is money it can be anything so long as it is agreed upon by bride and groom.
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