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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 November 2005, 18:10 GMT
Women resist 'honour' marriages
Five women from the same family in Pakistan's Punjab province have refused to be "united" with their prospective husbands as ordered by tribal elders.

The village council has told them to "honour" 1996 childhood marriages, when the youngest of them was just five.

Elders ordered the marriages to resolve a feud between the girls' family and a rival one - a practice now outlawed.

The refusal to marry has renewed tensions, leading to a shooting incident and arrests on both sides.


The row between the families began in 1991 when a relative of the girls killed another man from a different family in their tribe in Sultanwala village in Mianwali district.

He was sentenced to death for the murder by the Lahore High Court.

To put a stop to a lingering feud between the two families, the village council ordered the girls, all cousins aged between five and 13, to be married to boys in the family of the murdered man.

The boys were aged between eight and 18 in 1996 when the religious marriage ceremony, called a sharai nikah, took place.

The eldest of the girls is now 22. The legal age of consent in Pakistan is 18, and the other family is demanding that the marriages be fulfilled.

Offering girls in marriage to relatives of victims is a practice called vani in Pakistan. It was made illegal under a law introduced in January of this year.

'Protect us'

Members of the girls' family say they were forced to go through with the marriage ceremony nine years ago.

The father of one of the girls, Jahan Khan Niazi, told the BBC's Nadeem Saeed that the village council decision had been imposed against his will.

He said he would never let anything happen against the wishes of his daughters or his brother's daughters.

But he said he was concerned for the safety of his family members and appealed to the government and the Supreme Court to protect them.

Two members of the girls' family were seriously injured when they were shot at, allegedly by members of the family of the prospective husbands.

Police arrested nine members of the girls' family and seven from the rival one.

The girls' family say they have offered land and property as compensation, but this has been refused.

Meanwhile, police have charged 13 people in the same district in what they suspect is another case of vani.

Although the practice is banned, with a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail, our correspondent says the law is rarely enforced.

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