Abolishing Sang Chatti: Pakistan Works to Prevent Compensation Marriage and Other Forms of Violence Against Women
Seven-year-old Izzo Bibi* lives in a small village in the province of Sindh in southern Pakistan. Her father cannot afford to send her to school but her mother has taught her traditional Sindhi embroidery. Izzo’s older cousin Sheeno* used to help her learn new embroidery motifs.
When Izzo’s paternal uncle murdered his neighbour, the faislo (also called Jirga, the decision-making tribal gathering) demanded two girls from the murderer’s family as Sang Chatti (compensation marriage). At only 12 years of age, Sheeno was forcibly taken away by the aggrieved family. She did not even get to gather her belongings. The point was to punish the family by treating her harshly. No wedding ceremony took place. There was no music, no laughter — only Sheeno’s screams while she was being separated from her family.
The only news her mother received was that her daughter was being made to do household chores, wear worn-out clothes, walk barefooted and live as the wife of a 40-year-old man. Today Sheeno lives with both physical and emotional abuse and for the rest of her life she will be a taano (insult) for being a murderer’s daughter.
The Jirga’s decision had not yet been fully enforced and Sheeno’s suffering was deemed insufficient to compensate for the crime. According to the local elders, 7-year-old Izzo Bibi was also to be handed over to the aggrieved family as compensation.
Having witnessed Sheeno’s fate with her own eyes, Izzo’s fears worsened when she was told by her friends that she would also be sent as compensation as a wife to a 28-year-old man. Anticipating this, Izzo’s father sent her away for a few days.
Furthermore Izzo’s father decided not to obey the tribal decree, risking his life to stand up to the tribal custom. With a local lawyer, he submitted an application to the Supreme Court of Pakistan. His case was heard by the Supreme Court in 2011 which gave directions to the police to arrest the Jirga members and suspend its decision.