Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Tribal justice in Pakistan: In 2013, 11-year-old Amna was married off to a man three times her age to settle a crime her uncle had committed
The uncle had raped another girl in the village, according to tribal elders. Following tribal custom prevalent in parts of Pakistan, the elders gave Amna and her 17-year-old cousin, Zulhaj, to that girl's family. Nobody asked their opinion. Such "compensation marriages" are technically illegal under Pakistani law. But in a country with fraying central authority, the formal judicial system with its slow, corrupt course is often abandoned in favor of traditional tribal justice. With little faith in the courts, the practice of "swara"—giving away women as punishment for their families—remains an option for settling village disputes in tribal areas dominated by the Pashtun ethnic group in Pakistan's northwest. It also remains prevalent in the tribal-dominated parts of Baluchistan and Punjab provinces. In Pakistani courts, criminal cases can take up to five years to resolve while civil cases take up to a decade. The two girls, from a remote corner of northwest Pakistan, were both married to the brother of the raped girl, who is in his mid-30s. Within Pashtun tribal culture and under Islamic law, men can marry multiple wives.