Long overdue decision

It seems that the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) has awakened from a slumber as it has declared the custom of Swara as un-Islamic. The FSC was established in 1980 and it took the esteemed court 41 years to declare this unfair practice as un-Islamic. Swara is a custom where girls, often minors, are given in marriage or servitude to an aggrieved family as compensation to end disputes, often murder. It is a form of arranged or forced child marriage and the result of punishment decided by a council of tribal elders called jirga. The wretched custom, that deprived many innocent girls of their basic rights, has been in practice for decades in various backward areas of the country especially Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Mostly, it happens after the incidents of honour killing, which were limited to villages but now the extent of brutality has extended to urban areas, which is cause for concern.

The existence of unreasonable ritual shows that multiple justice systems are operating in the country. Usually dominated by supposedly wise old men of a particular community, these jirgas are a source of perpetuation of patriarchy and disproportionately cause harm to women due to the dominance of considerations of “honour” in these jirgas. These jirgas are regressive in their values and are used for the settlement of personal scores as well as resemble the medieval justice system. There is absolutely no chance of well reasoned, rational justice to emanate from these councils. These are brutal institutions that have caused the state more harm than good.

The declaration against

by the FSC was long overdue but needs to be welcomed. Moreover, a multifaceted approach is required by the government to end this unjust practice. Women need to be empowered and freed from the clutches of male dominance so that they can stand up for their own rights, and not allow men any power over them. Certain measures need to be taken against this oppression while victims should seek support from the concerned authorities, and need to show courage to confront any injustice. There is a need to change the mindset regarding the treatment of women in society.