Marriages are made in heaven and consummated on Earth, but man is responsible for the upkeep. Whereas the province of Balochistan is stuck in the quagmire of many political and economic issues, there the problem of forced marriages is also prevalent in the society. The province is composed of a tribal milieu. The Baloch society has some social codes of conduct which are even unknown to Islam. For example, the Shariah has given the right both to male and female to choose their partners of choice and to enter into a nuptial agreement, but most of the families in Balochistan consider asking the will of their female children for marriage as unethical and outrageous. If Allah Almighty has given this right to females then who are we to oppose this for the sake of our ego and personal interests?
Most of the marriages are arranged in this society considering the economic point of view. The female literacy rate in the province is just 37 percent which is the lowest in the country. With this lowest literacy rate the girls in the province are expected to be housewives and be the life partners of someone close in the family who can feed and clothe her. Moreover, the Sardars and tribal chiefs are getting weaker as the common people are getting education and coming out of their sphere of influence, therefore, these families try to enter their children in forced marriages in order to maintain some of their ascendancy. Furthermore, they do not want their family land to be shared with someone else out of the family. Hence, cousin marriage is the best available tool to them. In a pursuit to retain the barren lands within the family, these type of people actually make the lives of their children miserable.
The biggest problem with the province is that most of the things here go unreported. Most of the marriages and divorces are not registered anywhere. There is no data about the exact number of forced marriages and divorces. Sometimes these forced marriages end up in separations within few months of the marriage when sanity prevails on either side. Other times the marriages keep on lingering in the form of quarrelsome lives and continue in generations. These marriages are mostly within the family (Cousin Marriages) and cause many genetic and inherited diseases like Lysosomal Storage Diseases (LSDs) and eye diseases. Under the Roman Civil Law, individuals were forbidden to marry anyone within the four degrees, but no such type of legislation has been made in the country so far to curb these genetic diseases and prevent the young souls from permanent disabilities which are otherwise avoidable.
According to various published studies, a variety of disorders have been linked to cousin marriages ,including congenital heart disease, blood diseases such as hemophilia and thalassemia, deafness, cystic fibrosis, breast cancer and depression. Looking at hemophilia in a closer light, the link between this blood disorder and the Royal British family has been widely discussed. Royal families were notorious for their cousin marriages (or interbreeding) in order to preserve their lineage and to keep the royal blood ‘pure’. However, the consequences of such interbreeding were devastating, as seen elsewhere in Europe.
The main reason behind the popularity of cousin marriage is two-fold. First, it provides financial security by assuring that property or monetary assets stay within a family. Second, it offers personal security for parents who want to see their sons or daughters married to trusted spouses, rather than strangers. This is the main cause of forced marriages in Balochistan where there is limited education and awareness regarding the harms of cousin marriages. Before people can understand that marrying one’s cousin can be harmful to their offspring, they need to first understand what genetics is, how diseases can get passed within the family and how this knowledge can empower their choices and decisions.
To cut the long story short, it is need of the time that the medieval practice of forced marriages in the province should come to an end. Marriage is an agreement where the husband and wife can lead a happy life and cooperate with each other and not a consensus to keep the assets within the family with grievous consequences. It is also the responsibility of the parents that they should keep in consideration the will of their children before arranging their marriages. Otherwise, interfering in the lives of their children based on personal ego, the greed to retain the wealth within the family and medieval way of mindset can have disastrous consequences on society.
The writer is an MS Economics Scholar at University of Balochistan