Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bartered in marriage: The bride exchange in rural Pakistan

Your urban feminist sensibilities (even if you are a man) may be offended to learn that two economists from the World Bank have determined that women married in watta satta (barter) marriages face less marital discord than the rest in rural Pakistan.

Barter marriages involve the simultaneous marriage of a brother-sister pair from one family to a sister-brother pair in another family. Thus, when a man marries a woman, his wife’s brother simultaneously marries the man’s sister. The practice is common in rural Pakistan.

Barter marriages are often despised by the urbanites, who consider the practice to be a reflection of tribal customs common among illiterate and low-income households. There are numerous reported cases of women (and men) married off in watta satta exchanges against their will, and who were later subjected to domestic violence. The literature on gender equity holds a disparaging view of barter marriages and considers such unions a violation of womens’ basic human rights. How then can two leading economists from the World Bank, Ghazala Mansuri and Hanan Jacoby, conclude that the likelihood of marital discord in barter marriages is lower than in non-barter marriages? ...

Bartered in marriage: The bride exchange in rural Pakistan | Blog | DAWN.COM

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