Afghanistan: Leaders Work to End Practice of “Walwar”

Four hundred Afghani religious leaders recently met in Kabul to condemn the tradition of  "walwar" tradition. Walwars, or premarital fees paid to a bride-to-be’s parents, can be thousands of dollars and put the groom’s family in debt. Ultimately, this tradition leaves the bride to enter married life struggling in debt, and in certain cases, being treated as “an enemy’s daughter.”
 
The leaders agreed to preach against the unjust tradition.   Deputy Women’s Affairs Minister Mezhgan Mustafavi calls for law enforcement agencies to “bring to justice a few people who violate these laws in order to remind others that it is a crime to sell your daughter.”
 
The Afghan Women’s Affairs Ministry is also taking action, working to dismantle the unaffordable tradition of walwars as well as other harmful marital traditions, such as marrying off girls to settle feuds between families. The ministry has engaged influential clerics, law-enforcement agencies, and the media to support the cause. While selling or buying a person in the context of marriage is a federal crime in Afghanistan, the Islamic community is a key player in the enforcement of such traditions. 
 
Shari’a, the moral and religious code of Islam, does allow for a potential bride to request money from the groom’s family. However, Shari’a advises that the amount be small and affordable to her new family, and some clerics estimate that sum to be around $5 or $10 in comparison to the thousands of dollars currently expected.
 
Compiled from: Najibullah, Farangis, Afghanistan Seeks Divorce from Long-Standing Marital Traditions, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, (14 December 2012).