By: Seema Gul
PESHAWAR: An eight-year-old girl, who was given as Swara to settle a dispute by a local Jirga in Mansehra the northwest of Pakistan, has been given back to her parents after intervention of police.
The local people said a dispute had started between two families when a local person in Manda Kacha area, Muhammad Ashfaq, married a girl in his neighbor without consent of her family. In order to settle the dispute, a local jirga gave eight-year-old niece of Ashfaq, to the rival family and imposed a fine of Rs500, 000 on him.
Station House Officer (SHO) City Police Station Javed Ali told this scribe that the Jirga members after police intervention had assured that the girl will be returned to her family. He said the Jirga members were not arrested and given a chance to amend their previous decision.
The SHO said the Jirga held another meeting on Tuesday and sent the girl back to her family. However, it did not change decision of Rs500, 000 fines on Ashfaq.
Swara is a child marriage custom in tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is tied to blood feuds among the different tribes and clans where young girls are forcibly married to members of different
clans in order to resolve the feuds. It is most common among Pashtuns.
the kind of life a female is passing is really deplorable”Imran Takkar” Child Rights Activist
Imran Takkar Child Rights Activist says that, In such a male-dominated patriarchal society, the kind of life a female is passing is really deplorable. She is totally on the behest of a male despite of the fact that she gives birth to him. In such a society, thinking about the basic Human Rights of a woman become necessary where breaking the writ of law is easy but bypassing traditional norms and values is a difficult job.
SWARA: The Price of Honor
Swara allows the men to give away their females, including minors, in marriage by the offending party to the males of the victim party to settle disputes. The centuries old tradition is practiced in Sindh and is called Sang-Chatti, in the Punjab it is called Vani and in the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa is called Swara. Swar is a virgin girl, daughter,
sister etc of the offender who is given to the aggrieved family. Many are betrothed even before they are born.
Such traditional practice as is an intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, which results or is likely to result in injury, death, psychological harm, mal development or deprivation.
This harmful traditional practice (Swara) refer to a type of violence that has been committed against women and children in certain communities and societies for so long that they are considered to be a part of accepted cultural practice, while it lead to death, disabilities, and physical and psychological dysfunction for
thousands of women and children annually.
The Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) states “do not invoke customs and traditions of religious considerations to avoid their obligations” to eliminate discriminatory treatment of women that includes the girl child. United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC) under Article 2 calls
upon the States Parties to recognize the principle of equality before the law and to forbid gender discrimination, including through the adoption of the legislation prohibiting practices such as child marriage of girl child. Pakistan has ratified both CEDAW and UN CRC.
UN CRC focuses best interest of the child and non-discrimination (Article 2 & 3), protection of violence against children (Article 19), freedom of expression (Articles 12 & 13), and protection from sexual abuse (Article 34). Furthermore clearly states importance of effective and appropriate measures to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children (Article 24). However, the convention focuses upon HTP under health issues rather than an exclusive focus on it. However, UN CRC is a comprehensive commitment on child protection, as it focuses upon various rights of the children, simultaneously.
Despite of these conventions, harmful traditional practices prevail for girls and women in Pakistani context in spite of the ratifications of the Conventions. . At the present, there is no such reservation from Pakistan on these conventions, which can interfere with their effective implementation. Thus questions arise regarding the factors
due to which HTP prevail. The girl child suffers the most when compared to boys from harmful traditional practices in Pakistan. One prime reason of the prevalence of harmful traditional practices against girls in Pakistani context is that such practices are deep rooted in mind sets and socio-cultural values of our context. These practices are not new in our society, and occur within close setting in which immediate duty bearers and community agree and accept such
For rigid communities in our context, child rights can be violated when customary practice required maintaining harmony in their context. When viewed from this angle, none of the international convention can be influential to bring changes in our context, as communities own these traditional practices. Whereas, the human rights activists
oppose such traditions, and consider them as a parallel system to law enforcement, leading to disharmony in society. Thus, two opposite groups of thoughts operate herein. The consequences of such marriage (Swara) are meager for the accused, this practice prevails.
The fear of negative outcomes before conducting this crime does not prevail, consequently. According to estimates, 30 per cent of all marriages in Pakistan fall into the category of child marriage. Feudalism has been and observed as another major reason leading to this practice.
Jirga /Punchayat are also one of the reasons which lead to such harmful practices. Some time ago, Sind High Court abolished the old jirga system; however the duty of administration and police remained weak20 to ensure its implementation. One of the reasons for lack of proper implementation is that the jirga members are usually
influential people and, therefore, they escape from legal punishments. Finally lack of comprehensive Child Protection legislation and lingering state of Child Protection Bill indicates that child right is not a priority agenda. Girl child remains a focus of discussion and debates only. Moreover, to address her issues in isolation is not possible. Consequently, many of the girls are not only suffering from harmful traditional practices but are facing various types of violence and abuse associated with these practices as well.
Harmful traditions against the girl child can not only be eliminated through legislating. The implementation is equally important. However, uni-directional approach cannot support. It requires the strengthening of developmental side as well. In Pakistani context, implementation of the Article 25(A), by providing compulsory and free eAmong the cases of recent honor killings in Pakistan was of a pregnant woman who was stoned to death in 2014 outside the High Court in Lahore. She was believed to have married against her family’s wishes.
In Pakistan nearly 1,100 women were killed last year on the pretext of defending family honor, according to the country’s independent Human Rights Commission.
The killings are carried out by husbands or relatives as a punishment for alleged adultery, illicit sexual behavior or women defying their family in the name of love education can support elimination of harmful traditional practices.
Main reason for violation of Human Rights in Pakistan is that the country is ruling by a particular class of criminals.”Habib H Yad”
Human Rights activist Habib H Yad who has a close focus on the violation of Human Rights said that main reason for violation of Human Rights in Pakistan is that the country is ruling by a particular class of criminals.
He mentioned that the landlords and religious leaders are powerful and they can commit any crime fearlessly. The ruling class is successful for their efforts to create a hostile environment for Human Rights defenders and through this way they push the society towards the inhuman conservative culture.