Babawayil, within the foothills of the Zabarwan mountains by the Sind River, is a typical village in Indian-administered Kashmir. Teams of women and men sit on their lawns breaking open inexperienced husks of walnuts, freshly gathered 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.
A lot of the 150 households make their dwelling from farming and weaving pashmina shawls.
The village, nevertheless, is likely one of the uncommon locations in south Asia that has banned dowries and deserted the customized of throwing lavish weddings.
Weddings on this a part of the world are normally costly and may price a household’s life financial savings. Cash is spent on elaborate meals served to a whole lot of visitors – kinfolk, associates and neighbours.
As a part of the dowry, the bride’s household provides items – family home equipment, jewelry, money and generally even a automobile for the groom. Usually, the marriage occurs solely after the dowry is mounted.
Dowries have been unlawful in India for the previous six a long time, however the customized is deeply entrenched. An estimated 20 ladies a day are murdered or kill themselves within the nation due to dowry calls for. Yearly there are greater than 8,000 “dowry deaths”.
“The tales reaching right here about dowry and costly weddings have been disturbing,” stated Bashir Ahmad, imam of the village mosque. “I might all the time marvel how we might have the ability to marry our youngsters with these traditions.”
Ahmad was amongst 20 village elders who met within the winter of 2004 to debate how these “evil customs” may very well be stopped. After days of deliberation, the elders offered their concepts to villagers.
They proposed that the bride’s household wouldn’t pay something in direction of the marriage. The groom’s household would pay 900 Indian rupees (£9) as mehr – an Islamic obligation 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 household. The groom would prepare for 50kg (110lb) of meat and 40kg of rice for the marriage feast, and solely 40 folks from the groom’s facet have been allowed to attend.
Beforehand, a whole lot of visitors may sit right down to the wazwan, a multicourse feast of Kashmiri delicacies served at weddings, and dowries may attain a whole lot of thousand of rupees.
Villagers have been fast to simply accept the brand new guidelines. Since then, there have been no costly weddings held in Babawayil and no dowries have been given.
Final 12 months, villagers up to date the laws: the groom’s household now has to pay 50,000 rupees (£500) to the bride’s household, which incorporates 20,000 of mehr, to account for inflation. There isn’t a wedding ceremony feast – solely dates and tea could be served – and simply three persons are allowed to accompany the groom.
“I’m proud that everybody within the village is following these legal guidelines,” stated Ahmad, whose two sons and two daughters have married in the previous few years.
The villagers say there has not been a single reported case of violence or abuse towards a lady because the guidelines have been launched, and there have been no divorces.
There may be additionally peer stress to comply with the principles. Ahmad says anybody who doesn’t abide by them is ostracised in the neighborhood.
“Our inspiration comes from our faith,” says Iqra Altaf, 25, a postgraduate scholar who not too long ago bought married.
“Customs like dowry and lavish weddings are solely making the life of ladies tough,” she stated. “It’s resulting in crimes and discrimination towards ladies, even folks don’t wish to have a woman baby due to these points. We now have to finish this menace.”
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 joyful to see how the neighborhood has modified for the higher. “We’re content material that our daughters wouldn’t face any harassment. And individuals who would in any other case spend enormous sums of cash on marriages are literally spending their financial savings on fruitful issues like higher schooling for his or her kids,” stated Ghulam Nabi Shah, 65, a retired authorities official from the village.
“I’m attempting to persuade my kinfolk in different villages to maintain weddings easy … I wish to see Kashmir altering earlier than I go away this world.”