INTERNATIONAL

Jirga in Swat, by the women, for the women

Challenging male domination:Tabbassum Adnan (centre), head of the women’s jirga, speaks in Saidu Sharif, the twin town of Mingora last month.— PHOTO: AFP

Challenging male domination:Tabbassum Adnan (centre), head of the women’s jirga, speaks in Saidu Sharif, the twin town of Mingora last month.— PHOTO: AFP  

After Tahira’s murder in an acid attack last year,the prime suspect, her abusive husband, lived in freedom until the case was taken up by Pakistan’s first female jirga .

Tahira had been married off at 12. But her mother Jan Bano says she became concerned when her son-in-law, Subha Khan, started to beat and torture her daughter.

It was he who poured acid on her and dumped her in a room to die, she says.

Tahira’s face was destroyed. So was her upper body. She screamed in agony for 14 days before she passed away, Ms. Bano said.

When her eldest son approached officials to complain, Khan and his father threatened him with dire consequences.

Then they were sent a message by the local jirga , a group of male tribal elders that functions as a decision-making council in Pashtun society, advising them to marry one of their sons to one of Khan’s sisters by way of recompense for Tahira.

Ms. Bano refused to do so and was still fuming when she heard that a group of women activists had set up a women’s only jirga in Saidu Sharif, the twin town of Mingora, the largest city in Swat.

Tabassum Adnan (25), head of the 25-member women’s jirga , says she first had asked to join the main Swat Qaumi Aman Jirga to ensure justice for women, but they refused.

This led to the creation of the women’s jirga , whose only aim, she says is to provide “legal support to women by involving police and government authorities”. She calls it Khwaindo Tolana (sister’s group) and claims to have helped 11 women get justice.

Ms. Adnan raised Ms. Bano’s case and organised protests demanding legal action against Tahira’s husband, which persuaded police to register a case against Khan but he has since gone on the run. Ms. Adnan has provided Ms. Bano with a lawyer to fight her daughter’s case.

For Saima Anwar, who claims to be the first woman lawyer to have practised in Swat, it is a vital first step.

“This jirga is a good effort. It will provide women a platform and help them win their rights without fear or the interference of men,” she said. — AFP

Recommended for you