HARIPUR: About 85 per cent of parents or guardians do not ask for the consent of females for their marriage. This was said by Furhet, the principal of a government school and a social worker, in a seminar on “End Forced Marriage”, organised by Human Rights Awareness (HRA), a Haripur-based NGO. A total of 54 school principals participated in the seminar.
More than 90 per cent of Haripur consists of rural areas, which makes collecting statistics hard, she said.
She said that lack of awareness of human rights meant that forced marriages are very common in the area.
She spoke of Rezia Bibi, who was murdered six months back. Her case is still pending, even though it was a blatant human rights violation, she said. “It was an honour killing, but instead of raising their collective voice against her brutal murder, 250 villagers presented written witness that her killing was merely an accident,” Furhet added.
This incident shows a lack of awareness of women rights in our society, she said, adding that no law in the country was truly protecting women against forced marriages.
Haripur’s executive district officer said that while forced marriage was prohibited by the constitution and Islamic Shariah, it was seldom put to practice. The officer called on the government and non-government organisations to challenge the status quo and find a solution to forced marriages.
Zain Khalid Khan, the project coordinator for HRA, said that media had an important role to play in curtailing forced marriages and honour killings. “If our media stops reporting on forced marriages and honour killings and the victims’ stories are marginalised and they are discouraged from reporting their experiences, surely the honour killing rate would seem to reduce very quickly.”
He added that the Darul Aman (government-run women’s shelter) in Haripur was not in good condition, and women who are abused in their homes are even more fearful of the Darul Aman.
“Only one unarmed watchman is on duty at Darul Aman in Haripur,” he said.
Dr Asad’s mother, who is a head of school in Haripur, said that the practice of forced marriages was not limited to just uneducated people — the educated families also forced their women into marriages without seeking their consent.
Pakistan Peoples’ Party Member Provincial Assembly Dr Faiza Rasheed said, “I am also against forced marriages and will soon take concrete steps to end forced marriages in the district.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 12th, 2010.
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