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Society’s obsession with the demure bride and women complying with that is more dangerous that we realise. A recent bride showed us how to do it better.
Maahin Zafar’s recent Facebook post has garnered a lot of appreciation from everyone.
Maahin in the caption of her Nikah photo has pointed out how she was shamed for taking the time to read and fill out her own nikahnama (marriage form).
Nikahnama is a marriage contract signed by a Muslim bride and groom holding them accountable for all the terms and conditions mentioned in the contract. Even though the contract is signed by the bride, the contents of the contract are unknown and sometimes deliberately hidden from the bride.
The exact contents of Nikahnama vary from one Muslim sect to another. Largely it contains the name, date, signature of bride and groom as well as the signature of the witnesses from both bride’s and groom’s side as well as the signature of the mulavvi (officiator of the wedding). It also contains the exact amount of the mehr (amount payable by the husband to his wife) and the marital status of bride and groom (widowed, divorced, separated etc), All of this is done in case of future dispute or divorce specifically to protect the wife’s right. But patriarchy has managed to seep here as well.
~ The contract that is meant to protect the bride’s interest is often not clearly explained or read by the bride.
~ In some cases it is bride’s “guardian” who fills up the form and signs on behalf of her.
~ The amount of mehr as per the law has to be agreed by both the bride’s side as well as the groom’s; in many cases both bride and groom are not involved in this decision.
~ In other cases the bride is shown the contract only during the stressful duration of the wedding and is pressured by the “elders” to sign without delaying or reading it.
~ Sometimes, the language used, either Urdu or English is not understood by the bride in which case she has the option of changing it to the language she understands but since it is only revealed on the day of the wedding, it becomes challenging.
Signing any contract without knowing its exact content is dangerous but it is especially dangerous in case of marriage and the blatant disregard of women’s right that exists in our society.
There is also another provision of asking the bride’s and groom’s acceptance vocally in addition to the written contract to ensure that the bride is not being forced into the marriage. Even that right has been usurped from her, in many cases it is the father and not the bride herself who is asked for acceptance of the wedding.
Even though this is against the rule, no one expects the “shaant and sushil Indian bride” to object during the wedding ceremony. And those who object and take a stand are shamed for being “bossy” or “troublemaker”.
The general lack of involvement of the bride and groom in the wedding decision making is troubling but it can be especially dangerous for the bride because she is at a disadvantage. Our obsession with submissive brides has played a major role in brides hesitating to stand up for themselves.
A wedding in all cultures is considered as the “special day” of every woman. But it is on this day where she is objectified the most; her person, her voice is just an accessory of beauty to be admired by the attendees of the ceremony. She is just a pretty but ultimately mute doll, expected to do whatever people ask of her.
Brides often have to endure uncomfortable questions and objectifying comments on their appearance and body on their wedding. Their discomfort in any manner or form is disregarded. The pressure of being “nice” takes priority over anything else. This has created an atmosphere where brides cannot object and demand to read their own wedding contract.
But more than that, we as a society have to stop seeing a wedding and the marriage as a family matter and not an individual matter between the bride and the groom. Almost all decisions in a marriage is decided by the families and do not include the couple. This in majority of cases works in favour of the groom and is used against women to manipulate and control them. In most cases the mother of the bride, the only person who sympathizes with her, is also excluded from the decision making.
But all of this boils down as the regressive belief in the sexist gender roles, where men are the “elders” and “decision makers” for the entire family and women are the followers and are too “naïve” and “gullible” to take appropriate decisions for themselves. This is blatant in all weddings in the form of ‘kanya daan’ and “guardians” filling up and signing the contract for an ADULT woman capable of doing so herself or the custom of “giving away of the bride” as part of the ceremony.
As a woman and a party to the contract, you have the right to demand to read the contract before the wedding date, demand to be involved in all legal decision making of the marriage and ensure that you understand every detail of the contract before signing it. If certain details confuse you, consult a lawyer but do not sign it blindly. By signing it blindly you are giving away the right that has been given to you by law for your protection.
Remember that 90% of your wedding guests are never going to meet you again; their opinion of you is not going to matter once the festivities are over but that contract is going to be binding FOREVER. Be like Maahin, choose wisely; a few negative comments is a small price to pay for a secure future.
Image source: shutterstock
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Asefa Hafeez is a content writer by profession. You can get in touch with her
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