‘Evil customs’: why a Kashmiri village abandoned dowries

Babawayil, within the foothills of the Zabarwan mountains by means of the Sind River, is a normal village in Indian-administered Kashmir. Teams of women and men take a seat on their lawns breaking open inexperienced husks of walnuts, freshly amassed from the enormous bushes shading the sleepy hamlet. Different villagers are busy within the paddy fields bringing within the harvest. Harud, the harvest season, is normally busy.

Many of the 150 families make their residing from farming and weaving pashmina shawls.

The village, alternatively, is among the uncommon puts in south Asia that has banned dowries and deserted the customized of throwing lavish weddings.

Weddings on this a part of the sector are normally pricey and will value a circle of relatives’s lifestyles financial savings. Cash is spent on elaborate foods served to masses of visitors – family members, buddies and neighbours.

As a part of the dowry, the bride’s circle of relatives offers presents – family home equipment, jewelry, money and now and again even a automobile for the groom. Incessantly, the marriage occurs handiest after the dowry is fastened.

Bashir Ahmad
Bashir Ahmad, imam of Babawayil mosque, discovered tales about dowries and dear weddings ‘irritating’. : Aakash Hassan

Dowries had been unlawful in India for the previous six a long time, however the customized is deeply entrenched. An estimated 20 ladies an afternoon are murdered or kill themselves within the nation as a result of dowry calls for. Annually there are greater than eight,000 “dowry deaths”.

“The tales attaining right here about dowry and dear weddings have been irritating,” stated Bashir Ahmad, imam of the village mosque. “I might all the time marvel how we’d be able to marry our kids with those traditions.”

Ahmad was once amongst 20 village elders who met within the iciness of 2004 to speak about how those “evil customs” might be stopped. After days of deliberation, the elders offered their concepts to villagers.

They proposed that the bride’s circle of relatives would no longer pay anything else in opposition to the marriage. The groom’s circle of relatives would pay 900 Indian rupees (£nine) as mehr – an Islamic legal responsibility that the groom has to pay to the bride within the type of cash or possessions once they marry – and 15,000 rupees (£150) to the bride’s circle of relatives. The groom would prepare for 50kg (110lb) of meat and 40kg of rice for the marriage ceremonial dinner, and handiest 40 other people from the groom’s aspect have been allowed to wait.

Prior to now, masses of visitors may just take a seat right down to the wazwan, a multicourse ceremonial dinner of Kashmiri delicacies served at weddings, and dowries may just succeed in masses of thousand of rupees.

Babawayil village
Babawayil village, in Kashmir’s Sind valley. : Aakash Hassan

Villagers have been fast to simply accept the brand new laws. Since then, there were no pricey weddings held in Babawayil and no dowries had been given.

Closing 12 months, villagers up to date the rules: the groom’s circle of relatives now has to pay 50,000 rupees (£500) to the bride’s circle of relatives, which contains 20,000 of mehr, to account for inflation. There is not any wedding ceremony ceremonial dinner – handiest dates and tea can also be served – and simply 3 individuals are allowed to accompany the groom.

“I’m proud that everybody within the village is following those regulations,” stated Ahmad, whose two sons and two daughters have married in the previous couple of years.

The villagers say there has no longer been a unmarried reported case of violence or abuse in opposition to a girl for the reason that laws have been offered, and there were no divorces.

There may be peer power to observe the principles. Ahmad says any individual who does no longer abide by means of them is ostracised in the neighborhood.

“Our inspiration comes from our faith,” says Iqra Altaf, 25, a postgraduate scholar who just lately were given married.

A traditional Kashmiri dancer at a wedding
A standard dance at a Kashmiri wedding ceremony. The rite and marriage ceremonial dinner may just as soon as have value a circle of relatives its lifestyles financial savings. : Altaf Qadri/EPA

“Customs like dowry and extravagant weddings are handiest making the lifestyles of ladies tough,” she stated. “It’s resulting in crimes and discrimination in opposition to ladies, even other people don’t need to have a woman kid as a result of those problems. We need to finish this threat.”

Altaf says she requested her husband to spend even much less on their wedding ceremony than the principles allowed, to set an instance to others.

Villagers say they’re satisfied to look how the neighborhood has modified for the easier. “We’re content material that our daughters would no longer face any harassment. And those that would another way spend massive sums of cash on marriages are if truth be told spending their financial savings on fruitful such things as higher training for his or her youngsters,” stated Ghulam Nabi Shah, 65, a retired govt legit from the village.

“I’m seeking to persuade my family members in different villages to stay weddings easy … I need to see Kashmir converting sooner than I depart this global.”

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