A man who married off his 13-year-old daughter to a 36-year-old disabled man in Jampur has been released from jail after the daughter claimed she was 16 to protect her father and husband.
Wazir Ahmed married his daughter off to Mohammad Ramzan so that he could take his sister as a second wife. Ahmed’s first wife, Saima, had only given him two daughters and so, he hoped his second wife would give him a son. But Sabeel refused to marry Ahmed till she found a wife for her brother. As a result, Ahmed decided to give his daughter in exchange for a bride.
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“We gave a girl in this family for a girl in their family. That is our right,” Ahmed told the Associated Press.
In a rare move, police investigated Saima's marriage after they received a complaint, possibly from a relative involved in a dispute with her father. Ramzan and Ahmed were jailed for "a few days", but Saima testified in court that she was 16 and they were released. She said she told the authorities she was 16 to protect her father and husband.
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Defending his decision, Ahmed said her age did not matter because she had reached puberty at the time the marriage was arranged. He added, “It was by God's will that he was chosen. It was her fate.”
Saima told the Daily Mail, “Yes, I am afraid of my father, but it is his decision who I will marry and when.” She said she does not plan on leaving her husband. Saima had gotten pregnant soon after she came to live with Ramzan but lost the child at five months.
This practice of ‘watta satta,’ or give and take, is not uncommon in Pakistan. “If it is not done, our society thinks parents have not fulfilled their religious obligation,” said Faisal Tangwani, regional coordinator for the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in nearby Multan.
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Saima's mother, Janaat, said she agreed with her husband’s decision because “daughters are a burden, but the sons, they are the owners of the house.” She said girls cannot be left home alone after puberty for fear of unwanted sexual activity or finding a boy for themselves. “That would be a shame for us,” she added. “We would have no honour. When they reach puberty quickly, we have to marry them.”
Janaat also said she accepted her husband's marriage to another woman because it was her fault he only had daughters. “I feel shame that I don't have a son. I myself allowed my husband to get a second wife,” she said.
This article originally appeared on Daily Mail.