Watta Satta – Marriage Barter and Why It Needs to Be Abolished


You must be familiar with the story of Habeel and Qabeel. They were sons of Hazrat Adam A.S. yet watta satta caused discord between them. While the marriage barter was a necessity at that time to start the human race, there is no need to keep practicing it now. However, watta satta is a common marriage practice even in the 21st century, especially in Pakistan and in some parts of Afghanistan.

What Is Wrong With Marriage Barter – Watta Satta

Watta satta means exchanging brides where a pair of brother and sister marries another pair of brother and sister. In most cases, it happens because people are unwilling to marry their children outside of their tribe or caste. While on one hand this can cause hereditary diseases, on the other hand it has grotesque moral repurcussions.

Practicing and promoting watta satta in a society, puts its morality at stake. Not only does it strip people of their right to choose their spouse, the marriage barter system introduces an eternal threat in the lives of both parties.

If you treat our daughter roughly, don’t think yours will stay safe either.

This is the basic issue of a watta satta marriage that hangs over the heads of both families whilst tying the knot. This is an unspeakable vow between them, which can easily break and shatter families more often than not. The fact is that marriage is not easy, watta satta or otherwise. A little argument and fights break out naturally in every marriage. Unfortunately, when humans lose their temper they end up doing stupid things. Therefore, in the bride exchanging marriages, one mistake in one household automatically disrupts the peace in the other. Many times, this results in divorces and if not that violence and domestic abuse are extremely common.

Women Suffer

What is more infuriating to this ridiculous marriage making method is that it is always the women who suffer.

They are the ones who are beaten up in most cases, abused both emotionally and physically, they are told by the elders to keep it down, to have patience, to tell their brothers to spare his wife, and in case the situation gets out of hand, it is the woman who is killed in kaarokaari. There are quite a few examples in the rural Sindh where watta satta led to the horrible kaarokaari practice.

Watta Satta – Marriage Barter and Why It Needs to Be Abolished

Moreover, in Pakistan, remarrying for a divorced woman is almost impossible. While the men would easily find other women to marry. We are not generalizing here because unfortunately in 99% cases, this happens. Even if the men involved here might go through emotional turmoil, it is still the woman who gets the lion’s share in experiencing the suffering.

What to Do?

First of all, the practice of watta satta needs to be abolished especially if it is happening because of the family pressure and without the consent of brides/grooms. If the reasons behind marriage include safeguarding jageers, ensuring the safety of one woman by threatening to harm the other, and to get someone married who does not deserve marriage by offering their sibling as a sacrifice, then this needs to stop! Parents need to take the initiative of saying NO to such offers. Government should implement laws to discourage this practice.

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