In northwest Pakistan, many women and girls are forced into marriages based on an outlawed custom named ghag, where a man can forcibly claim a woman as his intended wife. The Guardian sheds light on Inteha Bibi’s story.
The weight of tradition
Inteha Bibi’s life journey is marked by resilience, defiance, and the continuous struggle against the suffocating grip of tradition. From the age of 12, she faced the looming threat of forced marriage after a man claimed her to be his intended wife. Although this proposal was rejected by her and her family, the custom states that she cannot marry anyone else. The man’s brother tried to enforce the tradition by attempting to kidnap Inteha Bibi from her house in 2019. She even had to call off her engagement to the man of her dreams to demand further action before the court.
“I am a human, and I have all rights to get engaged and married to whoever I want. I am a woman, not a toy, and I don’t want to be married to someone forcibly.” – Inteha Bibi
Illegal, but prevalent
Ghag forced marriages were deemed illegal in Pakistan in 2013, punishable with up to seven years in prison and high fines. Nevertheless, the practice continues. With a lack of knowledge of their rights, many don’t report the offense. And those who do are too often disappointed when men are granted bail after apologizing for their behavior. While more people are coming forward, courts and governments need to do more to support victims.
“We need to make sure the laws are implemented. We have laws against the ghag, […] There should be fear of breaking laws but here we rarely see implementation.” – Shahid Mehmood, regional coordinator for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
Even when the perpetrators in this case were arrested and Inteha Bibi’s family moved, the terror did not stop. The process has stolen Ibheta Bibi’s joy, made her sick, and unable to leave the house.
We at Freedom United consider ghag and other types of forced marriages highly unacceptable. Join us in advocating to put an end to forced marriages all around the world!