Vani (custom)

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Vani (Urdu: ونی‎), or Swara (سوارہ), is a custom found in parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan where girls, often minors, are given in marriage or servitude to an aggrieved family as compensation to end disputes, often murder.[1][2] Vani is a form of arranged or forced child marriage,[3] and the result of punishment decided by a council of tribal elders named jirga.[4][5] Some claim Vani can be avoided if the clan of the girl agrees to pay money, called Deet (دیت). Vani is sometimes spelled as Wani or Wanni. It is a Pashto word derived from vanay which means blood. It is also known as Sak and Sangchatti (سنگ چتی) in different regional languages of Pakistan.[6][7][8]

Though laws in 2005 and 2011 have declared the practice illegal,[9] the custom still continues to be practiced.[10] In 2004, the Sindh High Court outlawed all such "parallel justice" systems. But the writ of government is weak in rural areas, and local police often turn a blind eye.[11]


Hashmi and Koukab claim this custom started almost 400 years ago when two northwestern Pakistani Pashtun tribes fought a bloody war against each other.[7] During the war, hundreds died. The Nawab, regional ruler, settled the war by calling a jirga of elders from both sides. The elders decided that the dispute and crime of the men be settled by giving their girls as Qisas, a retaliatory punishment.

Ever since then, tribal and rural jirgas have been using young virgin girls from 4 to 14 years old, through child marriages, to settle crimes such as murder by men. This blood for blood tradition is practiced in different states of Pakistan such as Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan and KPK and tribal areas. A report by Pakistan's Law Commission states that sharia principle of Qisas is the rationale for Vani.[12]


After the promulgation of the 1971 constitution, the Pakistani government, which made Sharia its prime legislative source, has forbidden and discouraged Vani as being un-Islamic and cruel.

Samar Minallah, a Pakistani activist and filmmaker, has criticized the practice.[13] She notes that very often when there is a murder or a dispute, girls are given as compensation to the aggrieved party as reparation. The murderer gets away with his crime and one, or even more girls have to pay the price of the crime for the rest of their lives. Compensation marriages are largely accepted as a way of keeping the peace between tribes and families. However, under-aged girls torn from their homes in this manner often end up systematically abused and forced into a life of virtual slavery in the homes of their enemies.[14][15][16]


In 2008, a long-running blood feud in a remote corner of western Baluchistan province that started with a dead dog and led to 19 people, including five women, being killed and was resolved by handing over 15 girls, aged between three and 10, for marriage.[11]

In 2012, 13 girls ranging from age 4 to 16 years were forced into marriage to settle a dispute with an allegation of murder between two clans in Pakistan. The case was tried by elders from the two groups, with a member of Balochistan state assembly, Mir Tariq Masoori Bugti, leading the jirga. The jirga’s verdict included Vani, that is an order that the 13 girls must be handed over as wives to members of opposing group, for a crime committed by one man who could not be found for the trial. The sentence was carried out, and Bugti defended the practice of Vani as a valid means to settle disputes.[10]

Numerous other cases have been reported. In 2011, for example, a 12-year-old girl was handed over as wife to an 85-year-old man, under vani, for a crime alleged to have been committed by the girl’s father.[17] In 2010, another politician participated as a member of a ‘‘jirga’’ and ruled in favor of ‘‘Vani’’.[18]

The custom of Vani is very common in many regions of Pakistan. The Supreme Court of Pakistan served suo motu notices in 2012 to help reduce and stop the custom.[19][20]

As per June 2020 Tribune Pakistan report, a Jirga (a type of quasi Kangaroo court ) attempted ruling to give up a 13 year minor girl in marriage to a 41 year married man as Swara (punishment) for her brother's alleged disliked relation with his cousin, the Jirga's attempt was foiled by a close relative of the boy with help of police.[21]

Related customs[edit]

In Afghanistan, a similar custom is called Ba'ad, sometimes as Sawara.[22][23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ cf. e.g. Samar Minallah v. Federation of Pakistan, Const.P. No. 16/2004
  2. ^ Vani: Pain of child marriage in our society Momina Khan, News Pakistan (October 26, 2011)
  3. ^ Nasrullah, M., Zakar, R., & Krämer, A. (2013). Effect of child marriage on use of maternal health care services in India. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 122(3), pp 517-524
  4. ^ Forced child marriage tests Pakistan law Barbara Plett, BBC News (5 December 2005)
  5. ^ Bedell, J. M. (2009), Teens in India, Capstone
  6. ^ Nasrullah, M., Muazzam, S., Bhutta, Z. A., & Raj, A. (2013). Girl Child Marriage and Its Effect on Fertility in Pakistan: Findings from India Demographic and Health Survey, 2006–2007. Maternal and child health journal, pp 1-10
  7. ^ a b Vani a social evil Anwar Hashmi and Rifat Koukab, The Fact (Pakistan), (July 2004)
  8. ^ Ahsan, I. (2009). PANCHAYATS AND JIRGAS (LOK ADALATS): Alternative Dispute Resolution System in Pakistan. Strengthening Governance Through Access To Justice
  9. ^ PPC S. 310A inserted by Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2004 (I of 2005), S. 7 and amended by Criminal Law (Third Amendment) Act, 2011 (XXVI of 2011), S. 2
  10. ^ a b Vani verdict The Tribune (IHT / New York Times Group), Pakistan (October 9, 2012)
  11. ^ a b Declan Walsh. "15 child brides used to settle Pakistan feud". the Guardian. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  12. ^ Pakistan Law Commission Report, Banning the Tradition of Vani (Giving Female as Consideration for Compromise), p. 361, at Google Books, Commonwealth Law Bulletin, Volume 30, 51, pp. 361-363
  13. ^ "Swara: The Price of Honour". Khyber.ORG. Retrieved 2016-04-26.
  14. ^ Intikhab Amir. "Documentaries make social change happen". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  15. ^ [1] Archived 25 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Archived from the original on 12 December 2007. Retrieved 27 July 2013. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  17. ^ Child marriage: 12 year old girl given in wani to 85 year old The Tribune (IHT / New York Times Group), Pakistan (October 1, 2011)
  18. ^ Richard, J. (2010). Women in Northern Pakistan-Protected by Tribe, Territory or Taliban. UCL Hum. Rts. Rev., 3, 236
  19. ^ Noor, M. J. (2004). Daughters of Eve: Violence against women in Pakistan (Doctoral dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
  20. ^ Perveen, R. (2010). Violence Against Women in Pakistan: A qualitative review of statistics for 2009. Aurat Foundation.
  21. ^ Khan, Ahtesham (13 June 2020). "Jirga's attempt to give young girl in Swara foiled". Tribune Pakistan.
  22. ^ TOWARDS UNDERSTANDING PUKHTOON JIRGA Hassan M. Yousufzai & Ali Gohar, Fresno University, ISBN 969-8931-00-7
  23. ^ Alissa Rubin, For Punishment of Elder’s Misdeeds, Afghan Girl Pays the Price, New York Times, February 16, 2012

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