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Pakistan floods sweep away dowries and wedding plans

"I had been building up her dowry for almost three years," laments Hussain in the courtyard of his four-room house, which he shares with his brother's family.

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Pakistan floods sweep away dowries and wedding plans

"I had been building up her dowry for almost three years," laments Hussain in the courtyard of his four-room house, which he shares with his brother's family. “I supported the household and also spent a little on her dowry,” he explains.

Record monsoon rains have caused devastating floods across Pakistan, killing more than 1,200 people and flooding nearly a third of the country. In total, more than 33 million people have been affected.

Poor people in rural parts of the country, who have seen their homes, possessions, savings and crops washed away by the waters, have been the most affected.

The village of Hussain, near the city of Fazilpur in the province of Punjab, was not spared the disaster. Dozens of buildings were destroyed or damaged by the floods. But the rain also washed away the wedding plans for Hussain's daughter, Nousheen.

Every month, the truck driver, who earns 17,000 rupees (80 euros), would set aside a few thousand rupees for his daughter.

In Pakistan, it is customary for families to offer extravagant dowries when a girl marries.

In many areas, it is customary for parents to start saving for bride price for their daughters from the day of their birth, and although demanding a large bride price is officially prohibited by law, the practice is still widely observed.

The families of the bride and groom often present the parents of their future daughter-in-law with a long list of requests - including furniture, household objects or even clothes. In the case of wealthy families, this list may even include cars and houses.

Not providing these goods is considered a disgrace and the bride-to-be is often mistreated by her in-laws if the latter do not receive a decent dowry.

- 'To start all over' -

"I then wanted to marry my two other daughters and my youngest son. I thought I could do it gradually," says Hussain.

When the floods arrived near his house, the father of the family fled with his wife and relatives to a nearby station located on high ground. When he returned home two days ago with his wife and daughters, they could only see the devastation.

"They started crying when they saw the damage," he says.

Over the years, his wife Sughra Bibi had purchased a custom-made bed and dressing table, as well as a juicer, washing machine, iron, sheets and comforters. Everything was badly damaged by the waters.

"It's blacked out, so anyone who sees it, will say we gave him old things," worries Sughra.

The wedding had to be called off, but Nousheen tries to put on a good face. "It was supposed to be a happy time for my family, and I was very excited," the 25-year-old told AFP.

"I saw how difficult it was for my parents to collect this dowry for me. Now they have to start all over again," laments the young woman.

"Should we rebuild our house, sow wheat or marry off our children? These three things are so important to us", asks his father now.

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