An influential Pakistani daily Monday lauded a group of women in Swat Valley who have established the country’s first ever female jirga whose “objective is to counter the typically misogynistic decisions”.
An editorial in the Dawn said it is difficult to believe that in a country that boasts of female fighter pilots, not to mention a twice-elected female prime minister, “women and girls can still be parcelled out like chattel to settle scores in tribal feuds”.
“Yet that is so, despite the practice – usually known as swara or vani – having been declared illegal through a criminal law amendment in 2005 and again in a subsequent piece of legislation in 2011,” it said.
It’s heartening to note that through a combination of legislation, judicial and civil society activism, and media reportage, the inhuman custom is reportedly on the decline.
The daily noted that “even the most entrenched patriarchal traditions can be countered with persistence backed by institutional support”.
“And so a group of women in Swat has decided to shake the foundations of the definitively male bastion of tribal culture – the jirga – by forming Pakistan’s first-ever female jirga.”
It went on to say that a particularly gruesome case of domestic violence, in which a 16-year-old girl died of acid burns inflicted by her husband, was “the catalyst for the women to defy local convention in which public space and the right to dispense justice belong to men alone”.
“Their objective is to counter the typically misogynistic decisions that, in the absence of the female perspective and coupled with women’s low status in society, are often handed down by the traditional jirgas.”
The editorial observed that “weak systems of civil administration allow the anachronistic jirgas to survive in many parts of the country as a means of inexpensive and speedy ‘justice'”.
“Although they must in time be replaced by the formal justice system, for now jirgas could certainly do with a shake-up to their male-centred approach that treats women as little more than dispensable bargaining chips,” it added.