ISLAMABAD, May 23: The incidents of Sang Chatti, another name of the inhuman customs of Swara and Wanni, are on the rise in Sindh after Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry was made non-functional.
The ugly face of the custom under which innocent girls are given away as compensation for mending disputes came to limelight when a documentary prepared by anthropologist Samat Minallah titled “breaking the silence” was screened along with a presentation on “Women as pawns for settling disputes” organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan here.
The documentary highlighted Sang Chatti, which is known as Swara in NWFP and Wanni in Punjab, as a virtual death penalty for young women who become victims of the tradition.
Mubarak Bhatti, a journalist from Jacobabad, said 18 cases of Sang Chatti had taken place in and around Thul, Jacobabad, after the action against the chief justice of Pakistan who had taken suo motu notice of an incident in which five girls were given in Sang chatti.
He said two journalists, who had reported the incident, had been attacked and were constantly facing threat for their lives. He said an FIR had also been lodged with the Thul police but no one has so far been arrested.
He said PPP MNA, Mir Hazar Khan Bijrani and Nazim Jacobabad Akbar Banglani were members of the jirga which had decided to give the girls in Sang chatti.
Some innocent girls including Tasleema (3), Farzana (4) and Naseera Solangi (6), who had recently been ordered by jirgas in Jacobabad to be given as compensation to the aggrieved parties, were also present on the occasion with their parents.
The fathers of the girls said they were ready to sacrifice their lives but will not give their daughters in Sang chatti at any cost.
Samar Minallah said a Sang chatti victim may be alive but her spirit has long been snuffed out. She is a constant reminder to the in-laws of the death of their loved one...The physical abuse may not always be there but it’s the psychological scars that she has to live with and which never seem to heal.
Minallah and her counsel Mansoor Ali Shah said a contempt petition will be filed in the Supreme Court against non- implementation of suo motu notice taken in the case of Sang chatti by the chief justice of Pakistan. They said another petition inviting attention of the court towards the fresh cases will also be filed.
The speakers observed that to get rid of Swara, Wanni and Sang chatti, etc., the country should first be purged of the jirga system.
They said the girl taken in Sang chatti was forced into a life of near slavery in the home of the ‘enemy’. It is left to the aggrieved party to pick a girl and if the dead man had high standing in society, his heirs may even take away two girls in Swara. The process is overseen by the jirga which usually favours the more influential family. In fact, the whole procedure violates Islamic matrimonial law which requires the consent of both the man and woman to enter into marriage. These are pre- Islamic customs and have no room in Islam. Therefore, they must be condemned and strict punishment should be awarded to the accused. They said there was now a law under which members of a jirga announcing Swara will have to undergo imprisonment from three to ten years.
They urged the government to ensure that village panchayats, tribal jirgas and other parallel judicial systems are abolished and local influentials acted in accordance with the law and do not usurp the proper judicial role of the civil courts.
One of the participants stressed the need for a network of shelter homes to provide boarding and lodging facilities to the victims of Swara and Sang chatti.
Nazoora Ali, programme officer HRCP, however, said it was the responsibility of the state, as NGOs with limited resources were unable to do it.