Police in Pakistan rescued a nine-year-old girl from an arranged marriage to a 14-year-old boy in her village in Punjab province. They arrested four village elders responsible for the wedding.
“The girl’s brother’s wife died due to some health problems a few weeks ago, and (the wife’s) relatives suspected foul play and accused her family of murder,” declared deputy superintendent of police Mamoonur Rasheed. “On March 3, the village council decided to give the little girl in vani to settle the suspected murder.”
“Vani” means child marriage, which is common in Pakistan “to build and strengthen alliances, settle disputes or pay off debts.” Pakistani law does not allow children to marry under the age of 16, but most avoid the law and marry off their children. Police rarely intervene in these family matters.
Reuters reported the village elders “decided that the girl would be married to a 14-year-old cousin of her brother’s deceased wife, while the brother would pay 150,000 rupees ($1,430) to his dead wife’s family.”
In January, lawmakers attempted to push through a bill to curb child marriage in the country. It demanded the country move the marriage age to 18 and punish those who force children into forced marriages. The Washington Post reports:
But the Council of Islamic Ideology, a constitutional body which gives advice to parliament on the compatibility of laws with Sharia, appeared to slap down the legislation after deeming it “un-Islamic” and “blasphemous,” according to Agence France Presse. It had already handed down a similar ruling in 2014.
The council has garnered opprobrium in the past. In 2013, reports AFP, “it suggested making DNA inadmissible evidence in rape cases, instead calling for the revival of an Islamic law that makes it mandatory for a survivor to provide four witnesses to back their claims.”
In 2005, the BBC interviewed three girls who entered arranged marriages. Their families promised their daughters “in marriage to their enemies when they were children.”
“When we grew up we came to know that a great injustice had been done to us,” exclaimed Abda Khan. “Vani is equal to a murder. If we were to marry those boys, it would be the same as killing us.”
Now the girls suffer for the crimes of their family members.
“She’s just like a slave in their house,” described community activist Zia-Ullah Khan, “because she comes from the enemy’s family, and the people took vani to compensate their revenge. They try to give pain to the girl and her family members.”