Girls traded to settle blood feud
Deal included a four-year-old
The Supreme Court summoned a provincial assembly member and members of two tribes in Balochistan province to appear tomorrow after reports that 13 girls, aged four to 16, were traded last week to resolve a dispute. The vani, a custom of marrying young girls to resolve blood feuds, was allegedly overseen by the assembly member and accompanied by a three million rupee payment to a murder victim's family. “We have been raising awareness against this tribal tradition for decades and were appalled by its resurrection," said Muhammad Haroon Dawood, resident director of the Aurat Foundation, an organization working for women's rights. “The incidents are more common in tribal and rural areas. Several tribal elders have banned vani and now support love marriages. Media advocacy has also raised awareness but we are helpless as many politicians are influential chiefs and possess the same mentality," he said. According to the Foundation's research, 14 cases of vani, involving 20 girls, were reported in Punjab province in the first six months of this year. The girls, mostly under 18, were bartered in assemblies of elders held in 11 rural and two urban areas. A conviction for forcing a woman or girl into marriage to solve a civil dispute can carry a jail sentence of three to seven year, and a fine of 500,000 rupees (US$ 5,235). The Catholic Bishops' National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) also condemned the jirga - bartering - system and demanded justice for traded girls. “Tribal women are barred from attending these assemblies and thus cannot raise their voice against this injustice,"said Kiran Afzaal, a lawyer at NCJP. "Ninety percent of such girls are disgraced and even sexually used by males of the whole family. Their parents are not allowed to meet them. “Still people opt for jirgas for speedy justice," he said.