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‘It is not a grave we should slot in’: the Kashmir girls combating for marital rights

Parveena Jabeen was all set to get married, however in Kashmir weddings are extravagant affairs.

Historically, brides within the valley of Kashmir would take a trousseau with them to the groom’s home, together with garments, jewelry, make-up, items for the in-laws and even furnishings.

Jabeen’s father died when she was 19 and so, because the eldest of 4, she labored as a tutor to feed her household. In August 2019, when Kashmir was put beneath a political lockdown, she misplaced her job.

Jabeen was anxious that she may be mocked if she requested relations for assist, however then she heard of a gaggle that supported girls. “I approached them as a result of I felt that they’d not speak about serving to us all through the city,” she says.

Kashmir weddings, an essential social perform, are infamous for his or her extravagance and at instances the state has intervened to place restrictions on bills.

“Households find yourself promoting their properties, taking out loans, for pointless social customs. We don’t wish to encourage that follow, so we don’t purchase items for in-laws or house furnishings,” says Shehryar Khanum, a founding member of Mehram, a charity to assist struggling brides.

The organisation additionally helps new brides and ladies attempting to depart unhealthy marriages. “She defined to me how I ought to handle myself after marriage, to be vigilant and accountable. She insisted that I shouldn’t quit work, it doesn’t matter what occurs, as a result of that’s the solely strategy to hold my future safe,” says Jabeen.

This recommendation is crucial, says Khanum: “We come throughout so many ladies who’re requested to surrender work after marriage. It’s an unstated rule that it is a affordable factor to say, which it’s not,” she says. “In Kashmir only a few girls are upfront about their rights – non secular or authorized. As an organisation, we consider that they need to be.”

In Kashmir, custom has a huge impact on decision-making, says Prof Muzammil Jan, who has studied Kashmiri girls’s altering roles in society. “Even faith is misused within the context of ladies’s empowerment.

“Nearly all of girls’s selections are pressured on them by male decision-making energy, whether or not she is married or single.”

Most marriages are beneath sharia legislation, the place a doc is signed by each the bride and the groom, and the clauses are sometimes seen as set and so are not often edited. However Mehram is attempting to vary that. “We’re engaged on a mannequin, nikkah-naama, the place we wish to embrace the rights of the bride in writing,” says Khanum.

Whereas the Indian structure has been adjusting to enshrine girls’s rights, the authorized construction of Kashmir has been slower to catch up. In August 2019, a constitutional modification withdrew Kashmir’s particular standing, extending legal guidelines from India to the area, and it’s now potential for ladies to demand compensation for abuse in a wedding, in addition to medical bills and residential rights.

“The brand new legal guidelines intention to offer girls with authorized treatments by means of impartial adjudicating our bodies like household courts. These legal guidelines give girls proper to say upkeep from court docket beneath unique provisions,” says Viqas Malik, a lawyer in Kashmir.

However forms is sluggish. The state’s solely girls’s fee was disbanded and it’s not but recognized when a brand new one might be established. There’s little belief in authorized buildings to ship justice to girls.

“Establishments listed below are nearly at all times inclined in direction of reconciliation. Which means that you’re overlooking justice and changing it with what’s socially acceptable, which can not at all times be simply,” says Khanum.

Sarah Mir (not her actual identify), 35, has been frequenting Mehram’s workplace for a number of months. Mir’s marriage was organized by her brother. “I met my husband for the primary time on the day of my ring ceremony. I barely noticed his face. I noticed his face on the pictures of the ceremony later,” she says.

Mir discovered she was anticipated to be her husband’s housemaid. “I used to be disrespected, uncared for and even crushed by him,” she says. “However I didn’t share any of the abuse with my household as a result of I didn’t wish to fear them.”

Eight months into her marriage, Mir’s father died and he or she went house. “Ultimately, he got here with all his relations, asking me to regulate to the life I used to be given and solely then I’d be accepted again in his household.”

Mir registered complaints in opposition to her husband with a number of companies however nothing persuaded him to debate the wedding. Even her native police station didn’t file a criticism, Mir claims. “He needs the divorce to happen in a cave, in order that the judgment is in his favour,” says Mir.

In Kashmir, the predominant physique for marital settlements are mohalla committees, a gaggle of native folks, who’re invited to mediate by the households. However most mohalla committees are headed by males, says Khanum. “So it’s typically only a superimposition of the social view, somewhat than justice.”

Mir sees no answer but in sight however visits to Mehram have been therapeutic. “I’m grateful, for the psychological assist. In any other case, I really feel like I’d have dedicated suicide,” she says. “Most girls going by way of distressed marriages wrestle to search out assist and are informed that marriage is a grave they usually should slot in it.”

Mehram is attempting to fill that void. “Proper now, I feel some girls are right here simply to speak. We try to create an area the place girls really feel that it’s their place, speak to one another and share their experiences,” says Khanum.

There’s a WhatsApp group the place girls can share insights on their authorized and marital rights.

“I confronted quite a lot of issues whereas rising up. And I used to be anxious that I’d not be capable of maintain if I face marital issues. However after becoming a member of this group and getting in contact with different girls, I’ve been feeling a lot safer,” says Jabeen. “I really feel supported.”

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