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Jirgas versus women

DESPITE a Sindh High Court ruling in 2004 banning jirgas, they continue to take place, often under the patronage of elected representatives. Many jirgas are known to set up a parallel system of justice which often runs counter to the law of the land. They have handed down death sentences in a cases that a court of law would handle differently.

Such utter contempt for laws help jirgas fuel barbaric customs because people feel they can get away with murder, especially those committed in the name of honour. This shows that laws – no matter how well intentioned –alone cannot bring about a change. It is important that laws designed to root out social evils are firmly implemented if the wrongdoers are to be deterred.

Moreover, the legal approach must be supported by on-going awareness campaigns on social ills and customs.
It is heartening that some people are now standing up to the customs that treat women like commodities and use them as compensation for excesses committed by men. There is the practice of karanh-ji-chattai, which is a fine imposed on a person for his/her involvement in karo-kari, which in itself is a crime.

This practice has come into the limelight because the SHC in Larkana is hearing a petition on a jirga that was convened in Thull and attended by influential men who ordered the petitioner to hand over his 14-year-old daughter to settle an honour killing that took place over 20 years ago. This is preposterous and one must lend all support to the petitioner who has courageously stood up to the influential men who threatened him and his family with dire consequences if he went to the police.

It is now a matter for the courts to decide but one can only hope that justice is seen as being done.It is always difficult to understand why innocent women have to pay for crimes they have nothing to do with. One can understand, though by no means condone, that the ‘influential’ men like elected representatives who participate in jirgas do so in order to hold on to their power and influence.

But it is incredulous for the higher ups in the parties they represent to turn a blind eye to such behaviour. But unfortunately this is what has been happening all long. If political parties are sincere about bringing about a change, they must first start with changes in-house and induct only those in their cadres who represent party policy in letter and spirit. Civil society also has a role to play.

It must step forward and demand the implementation of the ban on the jirga. Much of the problem would be resolved if women were to be accorded the status that is their right.

Source: Dawn

Date:10/11/2007

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