In Nimroz, badal marriages continue to spawn family violence
ZARANJ (Pajhwok): The culture of badal marriage (women and girls exchanged as brides between families) remains intact in several parts of the country, fuelling family violence and leading to divorce, residents say.
The primitive practice involves the marriage of a brother-sister pair from two households. In some cases, it involves uncle-niece pairs, or cousin pairs. This form of marriage generally involves blood relatives.
In many cases, the rationale for this custom has been theorised as an environment with generally low and uncertain incomes, weak or uncertain legal institutions. It is widely viewed as the most effective means available to the poor.
The low economic level of families, clinging to the culture of dowry, is also common, paving the way for badal marriages. Many households in western Nimroz are unhappy with such weddings, saying they cause violence and divorce.
Thirty years back, he engaged his sister to Najmuddin and, in exchange, married his sister due to the poverty of both families that could not afford dowries, Zaranj resident Khan Mohammad told Pajhwok Afghan News.
Things had been going well for a few years, her mother-in-law started subjecting his sister to violence. As a result, Mohammad’s mother incited her son to mount pressure on his wife, sister of Najmuddin.
“If my sister would have no new suites, shoes, etc., I could not purchase her any. When my wife would mistakenly put more salt in food, I had to be angry with her, so much so that my mother forced me to marry a second girl.”
After his second marriage, his brother-in-law also tied the knot with another and divorced his sister, who had three daughters and a son. “Although my mother tried to coerce me into divorcing my wife, I continued to love her. So I didn’t not bow to my mother’s dictates. Then I was forced to marry for a third time.”
According to the Women’s Affairs Department, since the beginning of the current solar year, it has registered nine divorce cases in the province. Over the past six months, 80 incidents of domestic took place in Nimroz, compared with 60 during the corresponding period last year.
Women’s Affairs Director Amina Hakimi says the cases of family violence include three murders and one instance of self-immolation. Beatings, torture, elopement and child marriage are other forms of such violence.
A dozen exchange marriages were documented last year. Ms. Hakimi acknowledges exchange marriages often damage spousal and family relations in the province. She stressed the need for social awareness to discourage the long-running tradition.
A women, victim of exchange marriage, says she was engaged to a man 14 years ago when she was only 13 years old. In exchange, a girl from the family of her in-laws was betrothed to her brother.
A resident of Zaranj, she complains of a having lived a difficult life both with her parents and his husband. “My mother-in-law always used abusive words for me. All hard chores like feeding cows and sheep, cooking and washing clothes were done by me.”
Six years ago, her husband married a second wife. Her husband has since refused to provide food for her and her two children. Currently living in a separate room, she tailors women’s clothes to feed her children.
Fayyaz, another resident of Nimroz, married a 13 years old girl in exchange for his sister. The 19-year-old says his married life turned violent when his sister was tortured by her husband. “My sister is not allowed to visit our home. I have also started beating my wife to stop my brother-in-law from torturing my sister.”
Fayyaz adds the life of his sister had been anguished for some months after marriage but her husband has stopped treating her harshly now that he has realised that she is innocent. He has instructed his wife to teach their son not to be violent toward his spouse.
Religious scholars call badal an undesirable practice. If one woman gets into trouble with her family, another married in exchange is also subjected to cruelty for none of her fault, they argue.
Maulvi Attaullah Fikri, the Nimroz appellant court judge, believes any human being -- born fee -- should not be exchanged for another person. He insists marriage should take place with the mutual consent of two people. He opposes the badal custom for linking the fates of four people.
He quotes Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) as having said that no marriage is acceptable in the absence of a clear consent between the couple. Fikri claims 70 percent of problems, including family violence, stem from badal. “The practice is rampant in villages and far-flung districts. That’s why I have penned a whole book to raise awareness among people.”
The book, having 50 pages, urges people to avoid badal marriages in their communities. It also deals with judicial cases related to badal unions.
So far during the current year, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has documented around 2,600 incidents of violence against women, including divorce, badal and underage marriages.
Qadria Yazdanparast, a member of the AIHRC, views lingering unwholesome traditions as exacerbating women’s plight. “Violence against women in villages and cities is on the rise. Official negligence is giving it further rise,” she comments.
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