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Tribal Jirga Aims to Punish Remarried Woman

Contributor ,

am defending a couple from Swat that has been made the target of a tribal jirga, calling for them to be executed for dishonouring their families.

Shahnaz pictured with couple
According to a statement issued here by the Progressive Women's Association (PWA), Fatima was a resident of Swat district and had been forced out of her home due to threats against her family and relatives.

In 2005, she was forced to marry her cousin, son of her paternal uncle. She was abducted by her grandmother and two paternal uncles, forcefully taken to Afghanistan, and forced into marriage.

At that time the cousin said he was agreeing to the marriage to punish her and her family for allowing the girl and her sister to pursue education. He and his family found the education of women offensive as per their religious and cultural custom. This was amplified by the fact that not even boys in his extended family were being educated.

He displayed erratic behaviour throughout their one-year marriage, mentally and physically torturing her. Finally her parents were summoned and she was sent back to Pakistan, pregnant.

The cousin verbally divorced Fatima several times but continued to claim ownership of her. He also divorced her in writing, subsequently destroying the document, which left her in a state of limbo.

In 2006, Islamabad- and Swat-based religious authorities announced that her divorce was final. Shortly after, she was violently abducted again by her former in-laws, who considered her their property. Eventually, she was rescued by a family friend, who became her husband.

Now the two young people are running for their lives, and their families are receiving death threats as well. Abuse of women routinely claims lives across Pakistan, while we mourn the dead. Fatima and her husband are still alive, but might not be much longer. An archaic system of tribal jirga with no basis in the law of this country is threatening to take their lives.

The PWA demands that law enforcement agencies and government take control of the situation, pursue Fatima's case and enforce the law as well as provide protection to her, her husband, and their families.

Shahnaz Bokhari, Pakistan
February 2009


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