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Female jirga head flays ‘flawed’ legal system

By: Haroon Siraj

SWAT: Swat female jirga Head Tabassum Adnan said that now no woman would be left at the mercy of males and their Jirgas which “make woman a scapegoat”, and added that the new jirga’s purpose was to protect women’s rights under the Constitution of Pakistan.

In her exclusive interview with The Nation at Swat Valley, Tabassum said that on daily basis the jirga would solve all the problems being faced by women. “We have solved several cases of domestic and other issues on daily basis. I first offered to join the main Swat Qaumi Aman Jirga to ensure justice for women, but they refused. So, we have formed our own Jirga now and we will decide cases involving women. Our only aim is to provide legal support to women by involving police and government authorities.”

Tabassum, who got divorce from her husband after 20 years of what she called a troubled marriage, said her jirga is called Khwaindo Tolana, which means ‘sister’s group’. It was born as a result of a women’s empowerment programme being run by a local aid group.

“The tremendous response by women motivated us to organise a separate jirga to fight for our rights,” Tabassum said. She claimed to have helped 11 women get justice so far. To a question, Tabassum said that the main purpose was to protect women’s rights and stop the violation of women. She said that now-a-day, numerous types of violation are going on against women such as men kill their female relatives, children and other teenage girls due to minor mistakes. She said why they were killing women, girls and children. “Is there any law for the violation of women’s rights? If yes, why does the judiciary free the persons who kill women and girls? The need for a women’s jirga shows the incompetency of our legal system and reiterates that our government does diddlysquat to protect women,” she said.
She detailed, “We have got success in one case and our efforts brought satisfaction to the effected family. A few days ago, an old man contacted the female jirga and said that a person jumped into his home through a wall and raped her daughter who is 12 years old. After the incident, the old man went to the nearby police station but the police refused to register a case. When I myself visited the police station along with the old man and asked about the story, the police registered a case and court sentenced the accused to 12 years of imprisonment.”

She further said that currently there are two murder cases registered with Swat women Jirga. “I will raise my voice at every platform for women’s rights and also raise a voice against the violation of women’s rights. The demand of the group is to promote free education for girls and make it compulsory up to class X,” she added.

She further said that the jirga’s other demands are to: 2. establish new schools for girls within a radius of 1.5 kilometers of each community; 3. provide healthcare and safe locations within the same radius; 4. protect girls, adolescents and women’s health rights; 5. facilitate female teachers in remote areas by providing transport, accommodation and security; 6. accommodate local talent through relaxation of hiring criteria in schools etc; 7. make vocational centres for girls and women to give conventional training; introduce sewing, cooking, beautician, unconventional training, computer, plumbing, electrical, carpenter courses; 8. make interest free microfinance and SME (small and medium entrepreneurs) services available and accessible for women; 9. Ensure inclusion of women in all peace and reconstruction activities; 10. Ensure exercise of right to vote; 11. abolish all parallel justice systems; and 12. Get implemented women friendly laws especially punishment for forced marriage and acid throwing.
Female jirga system has been introduced for the first time in Pakistan. We have seen and heard a lot about Jirga system in tribal areas and urban areas of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa but it was all about male participants while females kept themselves miles away from such activities.

Jirga is considered the main pillar of Pukhtoon culture because it is faster system of justice. Justice through Jirga is a speedy process as compare to the court of law as cases are resolved in a few days whereas justice through the judiciary incorporates a lengthier process.

The Nation

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