The law to compensate by … “the young bride”

When she was 5 years old, Nazia was promised to marry a strange old man. This promise was part of an agreement to compensate for the murder of a neighbor because of a land dispute that Nazia’s uncle had caused.

After causing the crime, Nazia’s uncle escaped. Because this person has no children, a local elder council (jirga) – entitled to arbitrage according to traditional laws in most areas of nomadic Pakistanis and Afghan people, decides the daughter of his sibling will be the “sacrifice”.

That night was still deep in the young memories of Nazia. In the middle of the night, a man came and dragged her away. Nazia tried to resist, cry, and try to grab the door, but ended up being brought before “jirga”. The strange men kept staring at Nazia’s deep, long black hair to decide if she had “standards” as a wife. The local elder council decided that the Nazia family had to “compensate” with their daughter and two goats and a piece of land. The relatives of Nazia argued that she was too young to marry. However, in a rare decision, “jirga” agreed to let her not follow her husband immediately, asking her future husband to wait … a few more years.

According to many research papers, Swara customs appeared nearly 400 years ago, when a bloody land dispute occurred between two “Pathan” families in Mianwali (Pakistan), killing about 800 people. At that time, an elder council said that “compensating” with young girls was the only way to resolve this dispute, since then the two families became “informed”. Since then, this practice has been passed down from generation to generation, the name of each place may be different but the form is equally cruel. In 2012, according to reports by Pakistani journalists and social activists, every day in Pakistan there are at least 180 cases of girls being forced to marry under the “Swara” custom.

The sadness of women married according to customary law “Swara” poses a big question for Pakistani society: Why do families not seek justice in the first courts? Part of the answer is that customs are “deeply rooted” in society. The gaps and corruption in Pakistan’s judicial system also make people “trust” the local elder council because they do not have to pay court fees and punish them quickly. In addition, the rise of extremist Islamic forces in Pakistan has resulted in more harsh regulations, especially discrimination against women.