Who ever that came up with the idea of Mehrieh was a genius. Think about it, 90 years ago when Soghra was getting married to Nasrodine she was only 15 years old, had no education, no job and absolutely no savings. So what did they do? Her family negotiated a price for Nasrodine and his family to pay in order to "take" Soghra as a bride.
The details of Mehireh is that the negotiated price (cash, real estate, cattle, etc.) will belong to the bride and only her. She is the sole owner and has all rights reserved to her. She can demand payment either upon possible divorce or any other time that she damn well pleases and the husband must pay up, by law.
It makes complete sense to me. If Soghra decides that she does not want to put up with Nasrodine's crap any longer, she does not need to worry about not having any financial leeway to leave his wife-beating ass.
The other beautiful part of Mehrieh is that Soghra can demand that price any time she pleases, even with out the occurrence of divorce. Lets say Soghra would like to give a couple of camels to her mother as a birthday present, but Nasrodin has such a tight ass that he refuses to allow the little woman to proceed with her wish. Soghra cannot disobey her husband because remember, no education, no income, no say, right? Well, here is where the light of Mehrieh comes in. Nasrodine had promised Soghra 500 camels on the day that they sealed the deal of marriage. Well Soghra has every right to demand those camels and present them to her mother. Nasrodine has no say in that.
Mehrieh gave women power, freedom and a sense of security. It was a way for them to have some cushion in life in case of possible mishap.
Time has passed, people have evolved, we have come a long way. Women are now allowed to get an education and not just a high school one, but college as well. Women hold jobs, own homes, have 401K accounts, wear lipstick before marriage and damn it they can vote! Women no longer tie the knott between the ages of 14 and18, they have been getting hitched in their late twenties and recently not even until when they are in their early 30's. Part of the reason for that, other than the newly found independence and power, is the fact that we get to live longer than 45 years old in this century! We can have children up to 50 years old! Ahh, the miracles of science!
Now what baffles my mind to the point that I see steam coming off of my flat ironed head of hair is that people are still continuing with the tradition of Mehrieh! Families are still negotiating and setting prices on the bride. For the woman who can buy 100 camels (or a car, depending on your taste) with her own money if she wishes. The woman who has the ability to drive, go to work, and go out with friends with out the need to acquire a man's permission. The woman who owns her own home for god's sake!
Last week I found myself in the middle of a heated discussion between a couple of my friends and their parents. I had to keep checking my calendar to make sure I am still in 2008, or even the 21st century for that matter! I could not believe what I was hearing and was so shocked that I felt my hair slowly raising on the top of my head. Thinking about my foggy memory of my temporary travel back in time I can recall statements such as "you have to show your worth and respect by setting a decent amount of Mehrieh", "khodeto sabok nakon", "do not be stupid and disregard Mehrieh, it is your womanly right", "do not ask him to sign a Prenuptial Agreement, that will offend him" (the prospective bride has a job and an income where as the prospective groom is currently between jobs). I did not have a single response for this group as my feelings were beyond words. I strongly believe that arguing with such group of people gets me nowhere other than to the medicine cabinet for some headache relief.
SERIOUSLY??!! Are you kidding me? I mean there is steam coming out of my ears!!! I cannot believe that I have to explain this. We have to think about why a tradition or custom was originated, and if those reasons still apply to us in this age. Mehrieh did determine the worth and "cost" of a woman back in the freaking stone ages, for whatever reason they believed right. However, I really would like to believe that in our time (maybe we can call it the pebble ages) a woman's worth is determined by her beliefs, values, strength, education, determination, self worth, and not by her money, her family tree, and the value of her Mehrieh.
These days a woman does not need Mehrieh to be able to stand on her own two feet upon divorce. These days a husband and wife share their assests, they are equal. So when a woman is contemplating giving an apartment (or a set of cows) to her mother as a gift, she makes that decision with her husband as they have a relationship not an agreement.
So why are we continuing with the tradition of Mehrieh? I understand people's need for tradition and a sense of culture, but if we use our ever so capable brains we realize how some parts of our culture and traditions are not only not applicable, but also so ridiculous in this day and age. We, the new and improved (in some ways) species of the Iranian decent have many beautiful traditions that we can hold on to such as the Sofreh Aghd and all of the ceremonial gestures that go with our wedding ceremony. However, we need to put our custom in a colander and get rid of the ones that not only keep us from improving, but they are so negative, offensive and disrespectful to a group of us (I mean women, if you are not following me).
It shames me to think that this tradition is still being followed when so many women have fought so hard for what we have and where we are now.
Whoever that came up with the idea of Mehrieh was a genius, whoever that continues to follow that idea now, in my opinion, is not!