Brides in Blood 

Our newspapers were recently filed with the news of a lady, Afrooza Bano, being murdered by her husband. Hear this, because she asked him to pay her Mehr. 

KASHMIR is considered, especially by Kashmiri’s self image as one of the safest places, when it comes to the crime rate especially against women. Yet, our newspapers were recently filed with the news of a lady, Afrooza Bano, being murdered by her husband. Hear this, because she asked him to pay her Mehr.

Afrooza was merely 25 years of age.

Mehr is considered a Sunnah of The Prophet, a gift given to the bride from the husband. It usually depends on the giving capacity of the groom and more importantly on what the bride demands. In the days of the companions, many brides are known to have asked for non-materialistic things as well. Though in current times it has become a necessity to ask for something in terms of money or jewelry because men in the society have become unreliable and this amount acts as a security in case of a divorce, extramarital affairs, polygamy or death. Ideally, Mehr is supposed to be paid at the time of the Nikah even though many people keep it pending, to be offered to the bride at a later point of time. Sometimes to the point of her death. And some other times the men ask their wives to forgo their Mehr as well. As a gesture of goodwill and faith.

That was the case in this murder case too. The Mehr amount was pending even though the wedding was held and the couple lived together. Somehow, the talk of paying Mehr didn’t go well with the husband and he killed her.

Killing of one’s wife is not new to Kashmir. A lot of brides have been burnt because they didn’t bring enough dowries with them, or because they wouldn’t meet the new demands for dowry, because they voiced their opinions, objected to their husband’s extramarital affairs, had an argument with mother-in-law and the like. The list is never-ending. The number of domestic violence cases is even higher and is on an increase because of constant lockdowns, economic downfall and the general stress of life. A similar increase in the number of domestic violence cases was seen when the state was shut for some six months after the killing of Burhan Wani in 2016.

Thanks to patriarchy, the idea of a woman in our society is that of a dumb and mute person, who says nothing, hears nothing, does nothing. Even if the wrong being done directly impacts her. And this idea is not merely limited to Kashmiri society but plagues pretty much the whole of Indian Subcontinent. The idea that all women are damsels in distress and the men are taking pity on them and favoring them by marrying them and hence saving them. From what? Nobody really knows. So when a woman raises her voice for her rights, she meets ends like that of Afrooza.

Since men have this idea that their wives are supposed to do anything and everything they ask of her and his only duty towards her was that of marrying her, which he already fulfilled. They consider themselves supreme authority over their wives. Someone their wife should never say no to. Many people simply marry because, “We have nobody at home to cook” or “My mother remains ill most of the time.” People forget that their wives are not unpaid maids and that they have their rights and needs. Like everyone else.

Women do not simply marry because they are a burden onto their parents or they cannot take care of their own selves. They, like men, are seeking partners. A relationship which harbors love, intimacy and companionship. Not violence and blind submission.

As more and more women are getting educated about their rights in a marriage, many young brides are refusing to bend and mold into the societal idea of a good wife. They are no more afraid of a divorce or breaking off engagements. They no longer want to inherit the silence of their mothers and grandmothers. If something does not go well with their core principles, they have learnt to simply walk away.

This is also because of financial independence in the current generation. Since they do not depend on their husbands for financial assistance, they take the decision of asking for their rights or even separation more easily. Without fearing the consequences of what the society would say or more importantly who she might be dependent on if she takes such a decision.

The backlash from men, the violence and murders, also show how they have a sense of losing power and can do anything and everything to have that sense of control over things. For as long as possible. Part of the problem is also the fact that most men have seen their mothers enduring everything. They expect their wives to exhibit the same kind of behavior. The same tolerance our mothers and grandmothers showed when their husbands beat them up, or their mother-in-law treated them unfairly.

Probably, it is time for men to realize how they are supposed to treat women, what their responsibilities are towards their wives and how to let go of their conditioning and become good men. Unless that happens we will hear of many more Afrooza’s raising their voices for their rights and many more Shabir’s silencing these voices.

  • Hirra Sultan is a Srinagar-based author whose work on gender, health and society has appeared in many local publications

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer

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