Underage girls continue to be bartered away to settle disputes in Pakistan. Two jirgas, community gatherings, in Shikarpur district in the Sindh province, decided a couple of days ago that three girls marry men much elder to them to settle what is called karo-kari disputes.
Such disputes involve the labeling of an offender "black man" (Karo) and "black woman" (Kari), and may be applied to any person suspected of an act that brings shame to a family or tribe.
If the Kari's death is demanded, the primary approaches that are employed to enforce the sentence are stoning, shooting, burning, or axing.
In the alternative, a family member can maim her face. The Kari is held down and her nose, lips or ears are cut off or her face is severely lacerated. In some cases the Kari flees her accusers in order to seek sanctuary, often with a Pir (chieftain or spiritual leader). Although this act may preserve her life and visage, it is not unusual for the Kari to then be treated as a slave, sexually abused or sold at an auction by the Pir or individual with whom she sought sanctuary.
Mostly it is women who suffer. The man, even when implicated in a liaison, is rarely considered a partner in crime. Also it is the poor who suffer more under this barbaric practice, studies have pointed out.
When honour killings or maiming becomes difficult for the community to stomach, they also decide to marry off young girls to families claiming to be offended, by way of expiaion. Such jirga decisions are technically illegal, but they continue to flourish.
The latest incidents further testify to the feudal ways of certain parts of Pakistan.
A young man decides that his niece is having an illicit affair with someone, and so the kari (the woman offender) is killed. Still the karo (the male one) has to atone the sin of shaming the family honour of the girl.
The easiest, bloodless way of doing it, is for the karo to give away two girls in marriage to the offended family. The problem though is the karo has no children.
Well, the next best would be, so as not to prolong the dispute, is to marry off the daughters of his brother! That was the jirga decision and the karo family complied.
In the second instance a man murdered his wife after declaring her kari, as she was having an affair with another man.
The paramour's family was ordered to marry off a five-year-old girl by way of atonement to someone belonging to the "dishonoured" husband's family.
There is also a mercenary twist to the second story. The karo was asked to cough up a penalty of one lakh Pakistani Rupees, Rs.70,000 as penalty for the murder of an unborn child - the woman killed for honour was pregnant at the time of her death, and Rs30,000 towards police expenses of the distraught husband driven to murder!
Pakistani media reports blandly the police are looking into the matter.