Watta satta

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Watta satta or shighar(Urdu : ،شغار،وٹہ سٹہ), is a type of marriage common in Pakistan and Afghanistan. [1] [2]


The custom involves the simultaneous marriage of a brother-sister pair from two households. In some cases, it involves uncle-niece pairs, or cousin pairs. [3] Watta satta is more than just an exchange of women from two families or clans; it establishes the shadow of mutual threat across the marriages. A husband who abuses his wife in this arrangement can expect his brother-in-law to retaliate in-kind against his sister. Watta satta is cited as a cause of both low domestic violence in some families, and conversely for extreme levels of reciprocal domestic violence in others. [1] [4]

Domestic violence pattern of behavior which involves the abuse by one partner against another

Domestic violence is violence or other abuse by one person against another in a domestic setting, such as in marriage or cohabitation. It may be termed intimate partner violence when committed by a spouse or partner in an intimate relationship against the other spouse or partner, and can take place in heterosexual or same-sex relationships, or between former spouses or partners. Domestic violence can also involve violence against children, parents, or the elderly. It takes a number of forms, including physical, verbal, emotional, economic, religious, reproductive, and sexual abuse, which can range from subtle, coercive forms to marital rape and to violent physical abuse such as choking, beating, female genital mutilation, and acid throwing that results in disfigurement or death. Domestic murders include stoning, bride burning, honor killings, and dowry deaths.

In Pakistan it is typically endogamous, with over 75% marriages involving blood relatives, and 90% of these marriages occurring within the same village, tribe or clan (jaat, biraderi). [5] [6] In rural parts of Pakistan, watta satta accounts for over 30% of all marriages. [5] [7]

Endogamy is the practice of marrying within a specific social group, caste or ethnic group, rejecting those from others as unsuitable for marriage or other close personal relationships.


The rationale for watta satta custom has been theorized as an environment with generally low and uncertain incomes, weak or uncertain legal institutions of the state, watta satta may be the most effective means available to the poor to prevent marital discord, divorces and domestic abuse. [1] It enables a form of social pressure and reciprocity, wherein a man who abuses his wife is expected to be deterred by the possibility that his own sister will suffer from similar or more severe retaliation by the brother of his wife. Thus, watta satta, in theory, provides a non-institutional ex-ante provisions to reflect the interests of the wife and her family in deterring or mitigating ex-post malfeasance on the part of the husband. In practice, in addition to peace in two families, extreme forms of escalating, retaliatory domestic violence have been observed. [8] [9]

Bride exchange between two families is also seen as an informal way to limit demands and consequences of dower (brideprice, mahr ) and dowry disputes. [10]


Dower is a provision accorded by law, but traditionally by a husband or his family, to a wife for her support in the event that she should become widowed. It was settled on the bride by agreement at the time of the wedding, or as provided by law.

In Islam, a mahr is a mandatory payment, in the form of money or possessions paid by the groom, to the bride at the time of marriage, that legally becomes her property. While the mahr is often money, it can also be anything agreed upon by the bride such as jewelry, home goods, furniture, a dwelling or some land. Mahr is typically specified in the marriage contract signed during an Islamic marriage.


In rural parts of northwest and west Pakistan, and its tribal regions, watta satta accounts for over 30% of all marriages. [5] [7]

Watta satta is implicitly an endogamous form of marriage. In practice, Over 50% of watta satta marriages are within the same village; on a geographical level, over 80% of women either live in the same village of their birth or report being able to visit it and return home in the same day. Over three out of four women in watta satta marriage are married to a blood relative, mostly first-cousins with a preference for the paternal side; of the rest, majority are married to someone unrelated by blood but within the same zaat and biradari (a form of clan in Muslim communities of Pakistan) or clan. [11] [12]

The custom of bartering brides is also observed in Muslim agrarian societies of Afghanistan. [13] [14]

In Islamic communities of Sudan and Mali, bride exchange between two families has also been observed. It is locally called falen-ni-falen. [15] [16] The practice is prevalent in rural parts of Yemen as well. [17]

In Islam

Shighar is the practice of exchanging brides between two families, where the girl and dowry of one family is exchanged for a girl and dowry from another family. This is prevalent in Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries. [18] This practice is often a means to reduce or evade dowry, and as such is prohibited in Islam, [19] although it is prevalent in Saudi Arabia. [20] Muhammad is reported in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim to have said "There is no Shighar in Islam." [19] [21]

See also

Related Research Articles

A dowry is a transfer of parental property, gifts or money at the marriage of a daughter. Dowry contrasts with the related concepts of bride price and dower. While bride price or bride service is a payment by the groom or his family to the bride's parents, dowry is the wealth transferred from the bride's family to the groom or his family, ostensibly for the bride. Similarly, dower is the property settled on the bride herself, by the groom at the time of marriage, and which remains under her ownership and control. Dowry is an ancient custom, and its existence may well predate records of it. Dowries continue to be expected and demanded as a condition to accept a marriage proposal in some parts of the world, mainly in parts of Asia, Northern Africa and the Balkans. In some parts of the world, disputes related to dowry sometimes result in acts of violence against women, including killings and acid attacks. The custom of dowry is most common in cultures that are strongly patrilineal and that expect women to reside with or near their husband's family (patrilocality). Dowries have long histories in Europe, South Asia, Africa and other parts of the world.

Child marriage marriage or informal union entered into by an individual before reaching the age of 18

Child marriage is a formal marriage or an informal union entered into by an individual before reaching a certain age, specified by several global organizations such as UNICEF as minors under the age of 18. The legally prescribed marriageable age in some jurisdictions is below 18 years, especially in the case of girls; and even when the age is set at 18 years, many jurisdictions permit earlier marriage with parental consent or in special circumstances, such as teenage pregnancy. In certain countries, even when the legal marriage age is 18, cultural traditions take priority over legislative law. Child marriage violates the rights of children; it affects both boys and girls, but it is more common among girls. Child marriage has widespread and long term consequences for child brides and grooms. According to several UN agencies, comprehensive sexuality education can prevent such a phenomenon.

In Islamic law (sharia), marriage is a legal and social contract between two individuals. Islam is totally opposed to monasticism and celibacy. Marriage is an act of Islamand is strongly recommended; the age of marriage being whenever the individuals feel ready, financially and emotionally. Polygyny is permitted in Islam under some conditions, but polyandry is forbidden.

Marriage in Islam

In Islam, marriage is a legal contract between a man and a woman. Both the groom and the bride are to consent to the marriage of their own free wills. A formal, binding contract - verbal or on paper - is considered integral to a religiously valid Islamic marriage, and outlines the rights and responsibilities of the groom and bride. There must be two Muslim witnesses of the marriage contract. Divorce in Islam can take a variety of forms, some executed by a husband personally and some executed by a religious court on behalf of a plaintiff wife who is successful in her legal divorce petition for valid cause.

Bride burning or bride-burning is a form of domestic violence practiced in countries located on or around the Indian subcontinent. A category of dowry death, bride-burning occurs when a young woman is murdered by her husband or his family for her family's refusal to pay additional dowry. The wife is typically doused with kerosene, gasoline, or other flammable liquid, and set alight, leading to death by fire. Kerosene being often used as the cooking fuel with dangerous small petrol stoves, it uses allows to duff the crime as an accident. It is most common in India and has been a major problem there since at least 1993.

Women in Pakistan

The status of women in Pakistan is one of systemic gender subordination even though it varies considerably across classes, regions, and the rural/urban divide due to uneven socioeconomic development and the impact of tribal, feudal, and capitalist social formations on women's lives. The Pakistani women of today do, however, enjoy a better status than in the past. In modern Pakistan, women have held high offices including that of the Prime Minister, Speaker of the National Assembly, Leader of the Opposition, as well as federal ministers, judges, and generals in the armed forces.

Islamic marriage contract

An Islamic marriage contract is an Islamic prenuptial agreement. It is a formal, binding contract considered an integral part of an Islamic marriage, and outlines the rights and responsibilities of the groom and bride or other parties involved in marriage proceedings.

Forced marriage marriage in which one or more of the parties is married without his or her consent or against his or her will

Forced marriage is a marriage in which one or more of the parties is married without their consent or against their will. A forced marriage differs from an arranged marriage, in which both parties presumably consent to the assistance of their parents or a third party such as a matchmaker in choosing a spouse. There is often a continuum of coercion used to compel a marriage, ranging from outright physical violence to subtle psychological pressure. Forced marriage is still practised in various cultures across the world, particularly in parts of South Asia and Africa. Some scholars object to use of the term "forced marriage" because it invokes the consensual legitimating language of marriage for an experience that is precisely the opposite. A variety of alternative terms exist, including "forced conjugal association" and "conjugal slavery".

Dowry deaths are deaths of married women who are murdered or driven to suicide by continuous harassment and torture by their husbands and in-laws over a dispute about their dowry, making women's homes the most dangerous place for them to be. Dowry deaths are found predominantly in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Iran. India reports the highest total number of dowry deaths with 8,391 such deaths reported in 2010, meaning there are 1.4 deaths per 100,000 women. Female dowry deaths account for 40 to 50 per cent of all female homicides recorded annually in India, representing a stable trend over the period 1999 to 2016. Adjusted for population, Pakistan, with 2,000 reported such deaths per year, has the highest rate of dowry death at 2.45 per 100,000 women.

Islam and domestic violence Wikimedia list article

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Arab wedding

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The Muslim Teli are an ethnic group found in Pakistan and India. The word Tel means oil and Teli means person dealing with manufacture and sale of cooking oil in Urdu. Related to the Muslim Teli are the Ghanchi, a community found in Gujarat, who are also involved in the manufacture of cooking oil.

Islamic marital practices marriage of muslims

Muslim marriage and Islamic wedding customs are traditions and practices that relate to wedding ceremonies and marriage rituals prevailing within the Muslim world. Although Islamic marriage customs and relations vary depending on country of origin and government regulations, both Muslim men and women from around the world are guided by Islamic laws and practices specified in the Quran.

Arranged marriage is a type of marital union where the bride and groom are selected by individuals other than the couple themselves, particularly by family members such as the parents. In some cultures a professional matchmaker may be used to find a spouse for a young person.

Baad is a pre-Islamic method of settlement and compensation whereby a female from the criminal's family is given to the victim's family as a servant or a bride. It is still practiced in certain areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, mainly among the Kochis. Although baad is illegal under Afghan law, many of the victims do not know their rights, and still more are prevented from exercising them.

Domestic violence in India violence in homes in India

Domestic violence in India includes any form of violence suffered by a person from a biological relative, but typically is the violence suffered by a woman by male members of her family or relatives. According to a National Family and Health Survey in 2005, total lifetime prevalence of domestic violence was 33.5% and 8.5% for sexual violence among women aged 15–49. A 2014 study in The Lancet reports that the reported sexual violence rate in India is among the lowest in the world, the large population of India means that the violence affects 27.5 million women over their lifetimes. However, A survey carried out by the Thomson Reuters Foundation ranked India as the most dangerous country in the world for women

Domestic violence in Pakistan is an endemic social and public health problem. According to a study carried out in 2009 by Human Rights Watch, it is estimated that between 20 and 30 percent of women in Pakistan have suffered some form of abuse. An estimated 5000 women are killed per year from domestic violence, with thousands of others maimed or disabled. Women have reported attacks ranging from physical to psychological and sexual abuse from intimate partners. In 1998, of the 1974 reported murders, the majority of victims were killed by family members. A survey carried out by the Thomson Reuters Foundation ranked Pakistan as the third most dangerous country in the world for women, after Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The majority of victims of violence have no legal recourse. Law enforcement authorities do not view domestic violence as a crime and usually refuse to register any cases brought to them. Given the very few women's shelters in the country, victims have limited ability to escape from violent situations.

The practice of child, early and forced marriage is widespread and occurs in all regions of Pakistan, with the highest prevalence in the Sindh Province. It disproportionately affects the girl child.

Dowry system in India dowry system

The dowry system in India refers to the durable goods, cash, and real or movable property that the bride's family gives to the bridegroom, his parents, or his relatives as a condition of the marriage. Dowry stemmed from India's skewed inheritance laws, and the Hindu Succession Act needed to be amended to stop the routine disinheritance of daughters. Dowry is essentially in the nature of a payment in cash or some kind of gifts given to the bridegroom's family along with the bride and includes cash, jewellery, electrical appliances, furniture, bedding, crockery, utensils and other household items that help the newlyweds set up their home. Dowry is referred to as Dahez in Arabic. In far eastern parts of India, dowry is called Aaunnpot.


  1. 1 2 3 Watta Satta: Bride Exchange Hanan G. Jacoby and Ghazala Mansuri, World Bank (Washington DC)
  2. Latif, Z. (2010), The silencing of women from the Pakistani Muslim Mirpuri community in violent relationships. Honour, Violence, Women and Islam, 29
  3. Watta Satta Sajid Chaudhry (February 8, 2007), Pakistan Daily Times
  4. Niaz, U. (2004), Women's mental health in Pakistan. World Psychiatry, 3(1)
  5. 1 2 3 Watta Satta: Bride Exchange and Women’s Welfare in Rural Pakistan Hanan G. Jacoby and Ghazala Mansuri, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 4126, February 2007 (Washington DC)
  6. Charsley, K. (2007), Risk, trust, gender and transnational cousin marriage among British Pakistanis, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 30(6), pp 1117-1131
  7. 1 2 PAKISTAN: Traditional marriages ignore HIV/AIDS threat IRIN, United Nations press service (6 December 2007)
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  9. Zaman, M., & Wohlrab-Sahr, M. (2010). Obstructed individualization and social anomie. In Individualisierungen (pp. 155-175). VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften
  10. Dead Yemeni Child Bride Was Tied Up, Raped, Says Mom April 10, 2010
  11. Jacoby, H. G., & Mansuri, G. (2010). Watta Satta: Bride Exchange and Women's Welfare in Rural Pakistan, The American Economic Review, 100(4), 1804-1825
  14. Lindisfarne, N., & Tapper, N. (1991). Bartered brides: politics, gender and marriage in an Afghan tribal society (Vol. 74). Cambridge University Press
  15. Beswick, S. (2012). Brian J. Peterson. Islamization from Below: The Making of Muslim Communities in Rural French Sudan, 1880–1960. The American Historical Review, 117(4), Chapter 5, pp 1329-1360
  16. Peterson, B. J. (2004). SLAVE EMANCIPATION, TRANS-LOCAL SOCIAL PROCESSES AND THE SPREAD OF ISLAM IN FRENCH COLONIAL BUGUNI (SOUTHERN MALI), 1893–1914. The Journal of African History, 45(3), pp 421-444
  17. Yemen's sacrificial brides April 14, 2010
  18. The Encyclopedia of Islam, Bosworth et al. (Volume VI), ISBN   9789004090828, pp 475-476
  19. 1 2 Shighar Marriage Fatwa 275, The Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ifta, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (2009)
  20. Child Brides Cynthia Gorney, National Geographic, USA (June 2011)
  21. Sahih Muslim.