In Pakistan, Child Brides Delivered as Peace Offering

June 09, 2008 06:05 PM
by Shannon Firth
Fifteen child brides were used as currency in a trade to end a feud between two tribes.

30-Second Summary

London’s Guardian newspaper recently reported that in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, 15 child brides between ages 3 and 10 were recently given to a neighboring tribe to settle a quarrel that began over six years ago. The argument started with the shooting of a trespassing dog and the revenge killing of a donkey. Nineteen human victims later a settlement was reached; fifteen child brides would be given by the Chakrani to the Qalandri, along with payment.

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UPNF), “compensation marriages,” known as “swara” in Pakistan and “vani” in other countries, occur when child brides are given away to offset both emotional and financial losses. Child brides are given as peace offerings “for a murder perpetrated by a member of her family, to offset debts, or the settlement of other inter-ethnic or family disputes.”

A UNPF report, titled “Virtual Slavery,” explained that Islamic law forbids a marriage that isn’t agreed upon by both parties. Yet, in the North-West Frontier Province, the village council, or “jirga,” governs the process, and little has been done to stop the custom.

Samar Minallah, a journalist and documentary filmmaker, produced a film on the subject entitled, “Swara: A bridge over Troubled Water.” Minallah also uses music videos, advertisements, research and a weekly television show to raise awareness about child marriages. In 2006, she persuaded the Pakistani government to pass an act that would punish both responsible parties involved in child marriages.

Abdou Bala Marafa, the Emir of Gobir in Niger, has worked in conjunction with UNICEF to prevent the selling of child brides. Bala Marafa said, “We have been ignorant for a very long time. Instead of school we marry our daughters and put them in hell. Please women, be wise, send your daughters to school…”

Headline Links: Child brides used as currency

Reactions: Arrests wouldn’t be enough

Historical Context: Child brides in unlikely places

Background: The continuing cycle of compensation marriages

Related Stories: The peril of being a child bride


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