In societies across the urban and non urban world, women are viewed as honourable for their families. But our society is a mix of heterogeneous cultures and customs, norms and traditions where we can see openness and enlightenment on one side and rigidity, conservatism, fundamentalism and traditionalism on the other. We not only resort to giving women a highly derogatory status, but also introduce objectionable and inhuman customs under which men, in order to save their own skins use women as shields against their enemies.

In many parts of our country, the primitive-age old customs such as Vani continue to be a part of the ignorant tribes in the name of honour and self-respect. In many parts of Pakistan, as well as Afghanistan, girls are forcibly married to men of opponent tribes as punishment for crimes committed by their male relatives. It is called Vani in the Punjab, Sawara in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sang Chatti in Sindh, Sawara and Arjai in Baluchistan and Bad in Afghanistan. Under this custom, a man who has killed someone, will have to give one or few girls of his family as compensation, or pay up (Diyat). These girls will pay with their lives for a crime they never committed. It is a life sentence for the innocent woman.

Often these girls are very young and they spend their lives among their ‘enemies’ family’ as punishment, where no one is ever ready to forgive them. For centuries, tribal and rural jirgas have been using young girls to settle crimes.

In 2011 this practice was declared illegal in Pakistan yet it continues in many parts of the country. In 2004 another amendment was enacted in Pakistan’s Penal Court 310-A that declared three-year imprisonment for anyone involved in Vani. Many arrests were made since Vani became illegal, but since the law is ignore by most, including police and members of the jirga or village punchayat, nothing has been done to punish the culprits. This custom is quite contrary to the Islamic teachings. Strong political will is required to eliminate this disgraceful practice from our society but the powerful positions in government are held by the same people who are the decision makers of these jirgas or punchayats, and who support them willingly.

HUMERA KARIM,

Quetta, February 17.