Wait for Government Jobs Delaying Marriages
Srinagar : Saima is working in a private firm for the last seven years and earns Rs 4,500 a month. Saima's family has been looking for a match for the 38-year-old post graduate in social science for the last eight years with no success.
Every time a matchmaker finds a suitable boy, the proposal has not fructified for reasons ranging from she is from downtown Srinagar to working in a private company and demand of dowry.
“Recently I was rejected by a family as the boy was unhappy that my house has no lawn and no parking space. Similarly, one of the family rejected me as I was working in a private company. I have lost hope of getting married now,” dejected Saima said.
The story of Iqra (36) from uptown Srinagar is no different. Her family has hired the services of at least three matchmakers to find suitable a boy for her. “However, when a suitable boy is available, the prospective groom rejects as my daughter isn’t in a government job. Boys prefer to marry girls with government jobs,” says Iqra’s father.
“Marriage of my daughter is already delayed by many years. As she is highly educated, we are looking for a suitable match further adding to the delay,” he added.
These aren’t the isolated cases in insurgency-hit Kashmir. There are thousands of Saimas and Iqras in Kashmir and especially in Srinagar who are not getting suitable grooms and some have even crossed the marriageable age limit.
With society holding employment as the basic “pre-req¬uisite” for getting married, the drying up of government jobs -- biggest employer in Kashmir-- has rendered thousands of educated youth ineligible for marriage.
Jehangir Ahmad, a post-graduate, says that fear of unemployment isn’t allowing him to get married. “It creates a sense of insecurity and frustration among marria¬geable boys and girls leaving them with an uncertain future,” he said.
The desire to go in for higher education has added to the rise in average marrying age in Kashmir, as higher education follo¬wed by “proper” employment is a highly time-taking process in Kashmir.
According to unofficial estimates, there are thousands of boys and girls in Srinagar alone who have either crossed or are about to cross the marriageable age.
As unemployment is growing in Kashmir, most of the hapless souls are dependent on their parents and the very realisation of being a burden on their families is stopping them from marrying and taking additional responsibilities.
A recent survey conducted by Kashmir University’s Sociology Department reveals that dowry and rampant unemployment were the chief reasons for delayed marri¬ages.
The study “Emergence of late marriages in Kashmir” says that the average marrying age has increased from 24 to 32 years in boys and for females 21 to 28 years in the last two decades.
The other alarming aspect, the survey reveals, is the emergence of pre-marital sex in an otherwise conservative Kashmiri society. “There is an inverse relationship between late marriages and the practices of pre-marital and extra-marital relations among the youth.
Out of 1,500 respondents, more than 64 per cent revealed that late marriages caused and effected the pre-marital relations among the youngsters,” it reveals. Since sex is a biological need, the youth want to satisfy themselves through any means.
“At least 182 respondents said that sex control wasn’t possible as it was at its peak at an younger age. Another 219 respondents revealed that late marriages had led to extra-marital relationships, especially among the elder and married members of the society,” the study says.
Prof Bashir Ahmad Dabla, Head, Department of Sociology at Kashmir University, attributes poverty, unemployment, dowry, modern education and more than two decades of conflict as major reasons for late marriages in Kashmir with a nasty fallout on its socio-economic fabric.
The trend has devastating consequences like psychiatric problems, suicides, drug addiction, pre- and extra-marital affairs, sex scandals and a spurt in divorces, he said.
“The decrease in population at family level, mental depression, increase in
suicide rate, encouragement to immoral activities and pre-marital sex are some of the consequences of late marriages which we found during the survey,” the principal investigator of the empirical survey, Prof Dabla said.
He said the socio-economic and politico-educational developments in Kashmir had radical changing impact on the prac¬¬tices, rituals, values and norms of marriage especially related directly to late marriage.
“Also, political developments in the last 22 years of militancy had further impacted the traditional pattern of late marria¬ges,” Prof Dabla added. Asked whether the late marriage scenario was same in rural Kashmir, he says: “The situation is better in countryside compared to Srinagar and towns. Social fabric is still intact in rural areas due to which situation is comparatively better.”
Asima Hassan, a scholar at Kashmir University who has conducted a research on impact of conflict on youth, says the present trend is leading the society to a disaster.
“Demographic composition of the Valley is getting affected due to late
marriages. Sociologically, it affects the most active group in terms of roles, as they become less contributing.
The number of single men and women in Kashmir has gone up to 65 per cent. They comprise 45 per cent females and 20 per cent males,” she said.
Asima said the trend increased at an alarming pace during the last one and half decades. “We had not seen such a pheno¬menon 50 years back.
There were boys and girls of 20 years age getting married, but now, the age has increased from 20s to 30s in most of the marriages happening nowadays. Singlehood is one of the worst fallouts of the armed conflict in the Valley,” she added.
Though weddings had become a low-key affair post-1989 as gun battles and
frequent curfew restrictions didn’t allow the hosts to indulge in traditional extravagance, situation changed after early 2000 with the return of normalcy.
Weddings ceremonies have returned to their former lavishness which has brought on the self-imposed burden of spending beyond ones means.
Again, most of the hosts dish out ostentatious feasts whose sheer wastefulness makes them a sort of status symbol across the valley, especially in Srinagar.