Vani: Pain of child marriage in our society
One of the most popular customs in our country is that of child marriage, also known as Vani. Besides the tribal areas, it is widely practised in Punjab as well. This custom is tied to blood feuds among various clans and tribes, where the young girl is forced into marriage in order to resolve feuds. An interesting aspect of this custom is that if the clan of the girl agrees to pay money, which is known as Deet, the girl then maybe spared.
Pakistan is a country where traditionally most marriages are arranged by families, instances of where a male or a female openly choose their future spouse are rare. A majority of people in Pakistan usually prefer to get wedded at a young age; however, marrying at a tender age of 15 or 16 is prohibited by Pakistani law. Yet no measures have been taken by the government to enforce or endure that such laws are put to practice, instead, what usually happens is that the age of the girl is changed on the marriage certificate.
The ability to bypass the law and lack of prosecution has resulted in practices of selling girls into marriage in exchange of money or in compensation for crimes and settling of disputes. Although, as we all know the act is against the law, the lack of interest in such matters by the police and courts has resulted in use of such practices to this day.
In many affluent parts of Pakistan, the ‘Punchait’ and ‘Jigra’ systems are followed to bring justice and settle disputes. Moreover, these systems are headed by local elders and are still prevalent in interior areas of Pakistan. The victims are usually given as compensation to a disagreement or in form of an arrangement. In most occurrences, this form of ‘compensation’ is awarded by an informal court or by pressurizing the girl’s family members.
If the family of the victim or the victim herself opposes or goes against the decision of the ‘Panchait’ or the ‘Jigra, they will have to face the consequences of much serious crimes such as murder of the family members or rape.
All this is done in exchange for monetary gain and usually people from the lower strata have to face such challenges. Although, laws exit to prevent such barbaric acts, the lack of enforcement has resulted in these acts across the country.
Such acts should be repeatedly reported and dealt with in proper manner. The government should try abolish such ‘Jigras’ and ‘Punchaits’ and let the law of the country prevail. However, women should hold their head up high and keep faith alive.
As Muhammad Ali Jinnah said, “I have always maintained that no nation can ever be worthy of its existence that cannot take its women along with the men. No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men. There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a great competition and rivalry between the two. There is a third power stronger than both, that of the women”.