The archaic and unjust custom known as “watta satta” in the local language is still prevalent in our society.
Loosely translated it means “give and take”, and entails two siblings (brother and sister) marrying into another family. On some occasions, the Watta Satta even happens between Uncle/nieces or cousins. Conclusively, it can be termed as a move that screams quid-pro-quo.
Happy Marital Life Assurance?
Simply speaking the “WATTA SATTA” means if you want to marry a girl then you must exchange a girl for the marriage. It is the tradition of “give and take” i.e. “WATTA SATTA” is exchange of brides between two houses, the marriage of brother and sister with the sister and brother of another family. This ritual is not just limited to rural areas, but some traditional families who live in cities consider such marriages as successful marital life assurance. The ratio of such marriages is very high in Pakistan about 90% marriages occur within in the same village or area while 75% marriages occur within the family members.
Watta Satta- A Constant Threat
It is the darkest side of the relationship and not the assurance of happy marital life. The worst part is that one non-verbal clause that is present during the marriage proceedings and stands out till the end of the marriage, in which ever manner. That clause is that of a threat present. Since the exchange of women takes place between two families, there is a mutual threat present that if one girl is treated badly, the other sitting at their home will be treated the same.
In case of dissolution of marriage in one family, subsequently, the brother whose sister gets divorced will automatically divorce his own wife as well, just to take his sister’s revenge. This not only harms relations between the two families but forces the husband to divorce his wife, whom he may or may not love.
Sociologists in rural areas of Pakistan estimated that about seventy percent of the marriages are based on “WATTA SATTA”. One of the main reasons behind this tradition is that still there are some people in society that consider women as property and they use it for their own benefits. Watta-Satta marriage in Pakistan provoke low, domestic violence and often exceed the cause and end up in Karo-Kari ( form of honor killing) cases, especially in Sindh.
Unfortunately, customs and traditions hold significant place within our social fabric. However, traditions are one of the biggest problems in human cultures. People must choose for themselves, not because “tradition” says so. Moreover, Human rights Commission Pakistan recorded 340 cases of forced marriages in the country. Sometimes due to this custom, young teen girls are married to old men. Ironically, this does not involve her will, if a woman or girl raises her voice against such marriages she is sentenced to death.
What can be done?
The Government needs to play its role for this purpose. There should be some seriously laws that ensure the consensual marriages instead of enforced marriages. This should not merely target the rural population. However, should also cater those living in urban areas, yet forcing their daughters give away their fundamental right to choose their spouse which is provided by both, the constitution and the Islam.