Pukhtun women and Pukhtun men ghairat



Pukhtun men prides themselves with strange sense of Ghairat (honour) and Pukhto , although selling their women privately and publicly never went out of practise. The selling is carried out in Afghanistan , Pakistan border areas FATA and even in settled areas of Khyber pukhtunkhawa like Swat ,Dir and inside Peshawar in the form of Swara ( used in criminal cases when dispute is settled by giving away your daughter or sister ) Now with Arab money and influence ,coupled with the huge  financial losses ,  cultural , social disruption to the region due to War on terror  I don’t see the Pukhtun men abandoning this practise in the near future. Selling is no less than forced prostitution  or slavery but justified by our men in the garb of religion  because mostly the girl in question  are  forced  into nikkah (religiously solemnizing ) .  So this way the Ghairat (honour) and Religious obligation are met by the men and society  .    

The selling if I  bluntly put it ,can be categorized into two types as Society and traditions approves it,

The first one popularly known and practised in tribal set-up like Afghanistan and( FATA )Border areas of Pakistan and even the more settled areas like Dir and swat is Walwar.

 Walwar is the amount paid by the groom or his family to the head of the bride’s household. The money might be spent on girls clothes , Jewellery or furniture but its  not always the case . Financial benefit given to the bride’s family in return of the girl. So basically  and Practically a girl child who is already considered a burden, our Pukhtun fathers and brothers tries to make a profit out of the girl child or recover all the losses incurred on her (education  marriage or  if any or her living expenses) . Walwar is decided according to girls worth which comprises of her beauty and virginity or chastity. The better naturally endowed she is by God ,the better price she will fetch for her father or brothers.More Walwar or bride money  means more honour and monetary benefits  for the girls family, and of course no consideration is given to the suitor( age compatibility or martial status  ,the highest bidder takes the cake . There are instances when a girl married has been stopped by her father or family  from going back to her husband house  , because the father or family  thought of the walwar money not enough , in these cases mostly in settled areas has been taken to the court by the groom family and cases filed under restitution of conjugal rights . The court has dismissed such cases under the judgement that mehr or dower  was given to the girl and was taken by her as prompt dower. Hundreds of cases and judgement has been given by the high court Peshawar  on walwar and its abuse, but unfortunately no legislation has been done to stop the abuse of the practise .

  Another form of selling with no Monetary benefits or more  like a barter popularly known and practised in areas of Afghanistan, FATA  ,Dir  and Swat is SWARA (TO RIDE ON HORSE ) OR VANI derived from pushto word  wany meaning  (blood)  It is tied to blood feuds among the different tribes and clans where young girls are forcibly married to members of different clans in order to resolve the feuds. 

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
 In Afghanistan, a similar custom is called Ba’ad, .Sometimes this barter which is made by the parents of accused family to the victim is without religiously solemnising it (nikkah) and the poor girl is sent to the victim house to make atonement for the sin committed by the male member of the family .The practice of giving females in “badal-i-sulah” (as exchange of peace) was declared an offence according to the settled area laws  and this custom is now an offence punishable up to ten years imprisonment but not less then three years imprisonment.Unfortunately it is still practised 

  In tribal customs although in Swara the girl is forced to get married which is known as” speen partogay” (which means she  will be forced to get married into the victim family without any dowry or in plain clothes) .   What I fail to understand that if the Pukhto and ghairat (honour) holds the Zan (woman) and Zar(property land) such an integral part of Pukhtunwali then how come Pukhtun men in the end will try to make a profit out of their daughters or sisters  ( least invested in )forget about human rights or treating women as human beings.

Some of the work  i used in my blog





5. Vani a social evil Anwar Hashmi and Rifat Koukab, The Fact (Pakistan), (July 2004)


7.Minutes recorded with family court judge peshawar .


7 thoughts on “Pukhtun women and Pukhtun men ghairat

  1. i read about Sawara concept in Achebe`s novel, I guess we pukhtoons are no different than the african tribals. sirf chamlay(skins) mu badal di.

  2. its very easy to understand Mona why the so called’ ghairathmund pukhthuns’ do it. Women carry the bigger than life honour of men on their fragile shoulders in this part of the world and to give your women to an enemy is the highest dishonour imposed by a jirga as a punishment for the wrong done. We all know that honour is considered more valuable than life itself for this ghairat brigade,So instead of taking one’s life, they take his honour in the shape of a woman.This is how giving a woman in marriage to an enemy tribe is perceived. However, the issue of taking money for women in marriages is a cultural thing which is different from swara or vani.

  3. Good stuff. Needs some empirical evidence to support the overall argument. The misinterpretation of “Pukhto” as well as the strict/wrong interpretation of Islam has further worsened the situation, making women more vulnerable to men’s distorted sense of gherat. The original “gherat”, that pakhtun men are supposed to practice is primarily for “Pakhtun land”, but unfortunately, we, as a nation have lost this sense and by losing that we have become politically dead.
    People of the world are progressing and are becoming global and accommodating, while we are becoming more xenophobic and narcissistic.
    A girl faces discrimination right from her birth, she is treated unequally by her own parents, she does not have any voice, she cannot speak because parents, brothers and husbands use them as commodity.
    The one and only way to move forward is to bring women to the mainstream, to educate them, to provide them with the same care and support that we give to our “Sons”, to stop considering them as inferior, we must celebrate their births, and we must let them live their own lives.
    We need to re-interpret and re define the vague terms such as Gherat, and we must learn to go with world, otherwise destruction is our fate.

  4. Mona you have touched on a good and important issue facing the Pakhtun society but what you have ignored or even may not be aware of this that Baadiee ( When a female member of the family is married to the other family in a dispute) have saved so many lives and it has helped settle disputes that would have taken many lives and stayed on for generations. The Pakhtunwali codes which every Pakhtun is proud of have been corrupted by religion and extremism, these are pure codes that have guided the lives of Pakhtun for centuries and they have shaped the very roots of Pakhtun society who believes in Jerga, in Baadiee, In Naanaawaatay, in Haashar and many other

    any how your article is interesting and well written


    • Thank you for going through the blog. I am very much aware of the baadiee context and all the sacrifices all these strong women made for their families and men. Isn’t it time that we stop glorifying these practises under our pukhtunwali code. Isn’t it time we start treating our woman as humans not as sacrificial goats. I apologise being a Pukhtun woman I have yet to come across something in Pukhtunwali which favours women and not men. Thank you

    • QUOTE: “but what you have ignored or even may not be aware of this that Baadiee ( When a female member of the family is married to the other family in a dispute) have saved so many lives and it has helped settle disputes that would have taken many lives and stayed on for generations.”

      So it’s okay if the selling of women and the violence and other abuse against women keeps on occurring simply because it helps to settle disputes that our men are utterly incapable of settling without having to harm women in the process. Is that what you mean to say? Why women? If we turned the tables and forced the whole ghairat business on men instead of having women be burdened with it, I swear to you our entire view of ghairat and women would change completely. Until then, we’re going to keep on justifying seeing women as little more than the carriers and representatives of *men’s* ghairat (because men are too be-ghairata to maintain their honor by their OWN conduct, behavior, values, practices themselves) solely because it’s the only–but stupidest–way to avoid family feuds. Who suffers in the process? Women. Why? Because a man unhappy in his marriage can simply go ahead and either divorce the woman by conveniently screaming “talaq talaq talaq” and/or by getting another wife in the blink of an eye. A woman, however, who’s unhappy in a marriage has one option: stay miserable in that marriage. If she chooses to get out of that marriage, society won’t leave her alone. She can only go back to her parents’ house.

      Thank you for writing this, Mona. The truth about our society is bitter, but it needs to be said. And it delights my heart to hear Pukhtun women talking about the problematic notion of honor and ghairat and such that are destructive mostly to women–and ultimately also to the whole society, but we refuse to recognize that.

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