(Ms. Zeenat Zeeshan Fazil, 27, was born in Srinagar, Kashmir. She did her schooling from King George (Mumbai) and later Cambridge (New Delhi), and received her Masters degree in English Literature from the University of Kashmir in 2008. Presently, she is also pursuing her second Masters degree in Mass Communications through the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). In 1998, she began her career as a freelance journalist with leading national newspapers and simultaneously joined ‘Fazil Kashmiri Publications’ as Editor and Publisher, and is also an editor of the ‘Focus’. Ms. Fazil has written a book on Mass Media and Linguistics (2006), and ‘Falcons of Paradise'(2009), a reference book contains 100 Eminent Personalities of J&K starting from 14th century till date. After working for ‘Daily Etaalat’- a Srinagar based Newspaper in 2007-2008; she joined ‘Daily Kashmir Images’ as a Senior Correspondent by the end of 2008. She is also currently associated with ‘Charkha’, a foundation that highlights the developmental concerns of marginalized section of Kashmiri society particularly in rural areas and to draw out perspectives on women through their writings. Ms. Fazil is also associated with ‘Interchurch Peace Council Netherlands’ which is intensely involved in several conflict areas such as in Kashmir. In 2009, she joined the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA). She has received numerous awards for her meritorious contribution in the field of literature. Her interests are reading, writing, poetry, music, travel,and gender related topics.)
Troubled Marriages Continue to Trouble Kashmiris
Srinagar: Though the Kashmiri society has largely become tolerant to women remarriage yet the idea of a second marriage carries a stigma and most of the women hesitate to take the plunge.
After being ensnared in an abusive marriage for around five months, Firdousa Qadri (name changed) finally took the plunge and asked for a divorce. But this decision of her was only the beginnings of trouble.
“I had not done anything wrong, I just availed my God-given right to seek the annulment of a troubled marriage. Yet, I am treated as if I have committed a sin,” says Firdousa. “If I think about remarrying, people will start questioning my character,” the woman complained.
Firdousa, a 38-year-old single mother and a government employee said that her husband’s violent behavior started immediately after marriage. “I made my best efforts to keep the relationship going but the burden ultimately became unbearable. I started losing my vision and even my voice. I was left a shadow of myself,” says Firdousa.
Even then, she says, she might have stuck to it — but she had conceived. “I thought that by staying in this marriage I would not only ruin my life, but also that of would be child”, said she.
Five years on, Firdousa remains unmarried, though not by choice or a lack of offers.
“I received umpteen proposals from men but I think they have an eye on my parent’s wealth. Some even want me to leave my daughter. My ex- husband remarried eight months after divorce”, said Firdousa.
Another victim, 42 year old Heena Farooq (name changed), who runs a Boutique, faced severe resistance from her family when she decided to seek a divorce. She belongs to a conservative family where marital fights are traditionally settled by elders.
“I was virtually abandoned by the family. They wanted me to reconcile with my husband who used to beat me and never cared for the children. Even when it comes to remarriage, our family has a rigid and conservative mindset and doesn’t appreciate women who take such a step,” she says.
“A daughter is owned only till she is unmarried. Once she is married, she is treated like a guest in her parent’s home. If the marriage fails, she is treated as an outsider and a burden,” says Heena.
Most Kashmiri women who get divorced or whose husbands have died have similar stories to tell. Not only they have to strive for the respect they deserve but are also haunted by the ghosts of their previous marriages. They become soft and easy target for all sorts of abuse.
“A broken or a failed marriage takes a toll not only on women but on a man as well. But it is easier for a man to remarry as they are not faced with as many obstacles as women,” says social activist Nighat Shafi Pandit
Instead when a woman goes for a second marriage for the most part she has to compromise on the man’s age, financial position, education and physical appearance as well as being willing to take on the responsibility of his offspring, says Nighat.
It is very difficult to find suitable matches for women who have children, she added.
The figures available with State Women’s Commission (SWC) suggest that the domestic and post martial feuds cut across all income groups and strata.
“We have around 4000 cases registered with the Commission since last three years, out of which around 650 have been settled and more than 3400 are still pending,” says Chairperson SWC, Shameema Firdous.
Shameema says that on an average the Commission receives at least two to four cases daily. The cases that Women’s Commission receives are usually at chronic stage.
“Though we try our best to persuade the couples to reconcile but due to the degrading social fabric the results are extremely unrewarding. We also try to work for the maintenance (monetarily) of children”, adds Shameema, citing different reasons for increasing number of divorces like exposure, awareness of the rights, domestic violence and extra-marital affairs.
Social activist, Advocate Abdul Rashid Hanjoora says, “there is a mounting trend in which not only the uneducated but educated women are filing petitions for dissolution of marriage which was something never heard before. At present, we have around 12000 cases of domestic discord and maintenance disputes pending in the Lower court of district Srinagar only and if we include figures of cases pending in different courts of the Kashmir valley, the numbers will be much higher.”
One of the reasons for mounting figures of divorce cases, he said, is “lack of any “matrimonial” court in Kashmir (though we have one in Jammu) for speedy trials.”