The agonies of daughters of Chitral

Innocent girls continually paying the price of cursed marriages without their consent


By Suhail Ahmad

Daughters, as the Quran emphatically endorses, are the blessings of Divinity. In contrast, like other orthodox societies of Pakistan, people in Chitral, as being deeply and loosely connected with religion, treat their girl children in a quite miserable way. From cradle to grave, women are treated like property and commodity: prior to marriage, of father and brother(s) and of husband after getting married.

There is a plethora of examples that could be presented from the area that shows how women are subjugated. For instance, under one of the outdated approaches, a girl is considered ‘good obedient’ person only when she dedicates herself to serve her brother(s), father and relatives. She is hardly provided an opportunity to get basic education and participate in cultural activities. A girl has to scarify her education to safeguard the ‘honor’ of her family. The matter gets worsened when it comes to decision about her marriage.

Marriage, in its essence, is a contract between two persons to lead a family life together. But here, the family of the girl acts like, the ‘guardian angel’ having absolute authority to choose a husband for her, without getting her consent. The imposed husband, often a stranger, would finalize the details with the family of the girl including if their financial gain is involved and thus, the stranger would be allowed to take his ‘wife’ away with him on his own will.

‘These so-called ‘guardians’ either the father or the brothers of the poor girl, callously defy the norms, traditions and culture of Chitral, and literally turn the girl’s life into hell while facing all kinds of misogyny, humiliation, domestic violence, gender-based crimes and curse such as the ‘honor’ killing.

There are many instances in which poor girls from poor families have been married off to wealthy men outside Chitral. The lustful men habitual of polygamy would whisk away the daughters of Chitral to localities hundreds of miles away leaving hapless mothers behind with never-ending silent cries.

While living far away from their hometown, the daughters of Chitral become a property of their ‘influential husbands, chosen by their family. The ‘husbands’ are free to treat them either as a child producing machines or housemaids. The girls would be working as a slave round the clock and often subjected to worse crimes including torture and killing without a fear of punishment.

These daughters of Chitral have no one to listen to except their hapless mothers who can do nothing but advise them to be patient and obedient to their husbands. If the situation gets worse, the daughters of Chitral can meet three possible consequences i.e. killed by their family, most of them commit suicide, or will get back to Chitral one way or the other. Upon reaching back home, their male relatives would never believe the story of their ordeal. At best, the distraught women could live a miserable life with stigma as ‘divorcee’.

Unfortunately, scores of Chitrali girls face such abuse routinely for such cursed marriages without their consent. It’s a high time now to act and stop this curse. The government institutions and civil society must come forward to stop this inhumane and coercive practice.

Suhail Ahmed has done M.Phil in English literature and has a passion for writing on social issues.

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