Vani (custom)

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Vani (Urdu: ونی‎), or Swara (سوارہ), is a cultural custom found in parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan whereby a young girl is married as punishment for some crime committed by her male relatives.[1] Vani is a form of arranged child marriage,[2] and the result of punishment decided by a council of tribal elders named jirga.[3][4] It is tied to blood feuds among the different tribes and clans and is most common among Pashtuns. 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 India.[5][6][7] Some claim Vani can be avoided if the clan of the girl agrees to pay money, called Deet (دیت).

The custom became illegal in Pakistan between 2005 and 2011,[8] however, it still continues.[9] Recently[when?] the courts in Pakistan have begun taking serious note and action against the continuation of the practice.[10]


Hashmi and Koukab claim [6] this custom started almost 400 years ago when two northwestern Pakistani Pashtun tribes fought a bloody war against each other. During the war, hundreds were murdered. 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 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.[11]

Some scholars[12][13][14] claim the Hudud Ordinance of 1979 by Pakistan government, which made Sharia its prime source of law, as another driver encouraging Vani.


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 of 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 the politician Mr. Bugti defended the practice of Vani as a valid means to settle disputes.[9]

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.[15] In 2010, another politician participated as a member of a ‘‘jirga’’ and ruled in favor of ‘‘Vani’’.[16]

The custom of Vani is very common many regions of Pakistan. The Supreme Court of Pakistan served suo motu notices in 2012 to help reduce and stop the custom of Vani.[17][18]

Related customs[edit]

In Afghanistan, a similar custom is called Ba'ad, sometimes as Sawara.[19][20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vani: Pain of child marriage in our society Momina Khan, News Pakistan (October 26, 2011)
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ Forced child marriage tests Pakistan law Barbara Plett, BBC News (5 December 2005)
  4. ^ Bedell, J. M. (2009), Teens in India, Capstone
  5. ^ 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
  6. ^ a b Vani a social evil Anwar Hashmi and Rifat Koukab, The Fact (Pakistan), (July 2004)
  7. ^ Ahsan, I. (2009). PANCHAYATS AND JIRGAS (LOK ADALATS): Alternative Dispute Resolution System in Pakistan. Strengthening Governance Through Access To Justice
  8. ^ 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
  9. ^ a b Vani verdict The Tribune (IHT / New York Times Group), Pakistan (October 9, 2012)
  10. ^ cf. e.g. Samar Minallah v. Federation of Pakistan, Const.P. No. 16/2004
  11. ^ 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
  12. ^ Saeed, R. R. (2004). Women status in Pakistan under customs and values& the controversial hudood ordinance 1979
  13. ^ Shamsie, M. (2002). A matter of dishonour. Index on Censorship, 31(4), pp 191-195
  14. ^ Khouri, N. (2007). Human Rights and Islam: Lessons from Amina Lawal and Mukhtar Mai. Geo. J. Gender & L., 8, 93.
  15. ^ Child marriage: 12 year old girl given in wani to 85 year old The Tribune (IHT / New York Times Group), Pakistan (October 1, 2011)
  16. ^ Richard, J. (2010). Women in Northern Pakistan-Protected by Tribe, Territory or Taliban. UCL Hum. Rts. Rev., 3, 236
  17. ^ Noor, M. J. (2004). Daughters of Eve: Violence against women in Pakistan (Doctoral dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
  18. ^ Perveen, R. (2010). Violence Against Women in Pakistan: A qualitative review of statistics for 2009. Aurat Foundation.
  19. ^ TOWARDS UNDERSTANDING PUKHTOON JIRGA Hassan M. Yousufzai & Ali Gohar, Fresno University, ISBN 969-8931-00-7
  20. ^ Alissa Rubin, For Punishment of Elder’s Misdeeds, Afghan Girl Pays the Price, New York Times, February 16, 2012

External links[edit]