Forced marriage still an inssue in Pakistan

Two years ago, when she got home from school in Madyan, Pakistan, this little girl learnt her father had offered her in marriage — to a stranger.

She was only five years old at the time.

SOUNDBITE 1 – Saneeda, Victim of forced marriage:
“Whenever I go to school, children taunt me and tell me that I have been given in Swara and will be married to a man.”

Saneeda’s uncle stepped in and rescued her by objecting to what’s known as “Swara”, a tradition upheld by some.
According to Swara, a conflict between two families can be resolved by offering a girl in marriage.
It’s a custom that’s proving hard to combat.

SOUNDBITE 2 – Fazal Ahad, Saneeda’s uncle:
“We initially thought they can’t take this girl away but then they increased pressure with every passing day to give her in Swara, forcing us to move to the courts.”

The tradition has been illegal since 2005 and now the minimum age for marriage is 16 for girls and 18 for boys.

In the Swat valley, near the Afghan border, there’s been an increase in cases brought to the courts from just one in 2012, up to 9 last year.

SOUNDBITE 3 – Tabassum Adnan Safi, Spokeswoman for the council of the women of Swat valley:
“Swara is an old tradition, but now it is being highlighted that’s why we feel that the ratio is high. The trend is increasing because people have started to work on it, like we did. I have been working on Swara and it is coming into our notice. I have been living in the area, but was unaware of Swara unless I started working on it.”

While efforts to stop Swara are beginning to make a difference, there’s still a long way to go to eradicate the tradition completely, especially in the country’s more conservative regions.

SOUNDBITE 4 – Kareem Shalman, Lawyer:
“I support the process of Swara. The deadly conflicts among the tribes and families in which dozens, scores would be killed have been changed into a settlement through Swara.”

The law banning Swara is increasingly respected but according to human rights advocates, the number of reported cases is just a fraction of the reality. They’re calling for the legal age of marriage to be raised to 18 for girls as well.

A link to the article can be found here.