Injustice for the weak and downtrodden is not unusual and despite it’s prevalence in our world today, we as a society are constantly trying to fight against these sorts of social injustices. Take for instance the idea of arranged marriage.
In Pakistan, arranged marriages are commonplace. Every year, for thousands of years, women of all ages have been forced into loveless marriages by older relatives. 21-year-old Aasia was just like so many others, made to marry a man who she did not love…
Aasia Bibi’s parents had good news for her, or what they considered good news anyway. Though she was only 20 years old, they had decided she was ready to marry. The family, who come from a small village called Ali Pur, had been toying with the idea for a while, but they had only just found a suitable match.
Choose Your Man
Aasia begged her parents not to do it. Her husband-to-be was a relative of hers and was much older than herself. At the same time, she also had a boyfriend of her own, a man she actually loved. By the tenets of her Islamic faith, Aasia technically had the right to choose her own husband, but that didn’t stop her parents…
The girl had begged and begged but her parents rejected each of her pleas. Eventually, the two were married and Aasia was forced to move in with her new husband and forsake the man she truly loved. The two lovers continued to communicate but each day, even that became more and more dangerous.
Life with her new husband was a misery and the few times she did speak to her parents, Aasia warned them that she would do anything to get out of the marriage but still, they refused to let her get a divorce. It wasn’t an empty threat either. She didn’t know what she was capable of, but she was getting more and more desperate…
Instead of doing something drastic, Bibi decided to once again take up the love affair with her beloved boyfriend, Shahid Lashari. Even at 21, the two lovers knew that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together and Bibi’s new husband was in the way. Something had to be done. Years passed before they figured out what.
Desperate times call for desperate measures and Aasia was certainly desperate. Her husband and her family would never agree to a divorce. She and Shahid knew the only way to be rid of her husband was to kill him. Shahid suggested something subtle, something foolproof: poison. He gave her the poison and told her to put it in something that he usually drank…
Have Some Milk
Bibi’s new husband liked to drink milk. It was so simple, not elegant or anything, sort of contrived when it came to it, but she couldn’t deny that it would work. As long as he drank it. And therein lay the problem, the husband refused to drink the milk. Aasia’s plan had fallen apart and all she had left was a jug of tainted milk.
The child bride’s problems didn’t end there unfortunately. She was so disappointed that her plan hadn’t worked, that she neglected to dispose of the poisoned milk before going to find solace with her boyfriend. Before she could return and get rid of it, the jug was taken from her larder by her mother-in-law…
Lassi for Everyone
At some point after, Aasia’s mother-in-law used the tainted milk to make a batch of lassi, which is a popular yogurt-based drink in the area. She then served the lassi to no less than 27 members of her extended family. Within minutes of drinking the poisoned yogurt, all of them lost consciousness and were subsequently rushed to the hospital.
Days passed and one by one, seventeen members of the extended family became sicker and sicker until they died. One of them was a young girl, not much younger than Aasia herself. Meanwhile, the remaining 10 relatives stayed in the hospital in pain and in critical condition. Ironically, Aasia’s husband was one of the few who hadn’t drunk the lassi and he had an idea of what had happened…
Gone Too Far
All of Aasia’s threats to her parents about “drastic measures” and “capable of anything”, had essentially signed her own confession. While it’s not clear whether or not he knew of the affair, it was clear he hadn’t trusted her for years. Of course, Aasia had never meant for anything of the sort to happen. The only person who was to suffer was her cruel, loveless husband.
Deny the Blame
Initially, Aasia denied the allegations against her and her boyfriend. But when 27 people are poisoned and 17 of them die, the police tend to be pretty fervent in their desire to root out the killer. Finally, Aasia told them the truth…or part of it anyway. According to her it was her boyfriend, who “asked me to mix it in something”…
Two Weeks of Questioning
The police placed both Aasia and her boyfriend under arrest and began to dig at them to discern the truth. District police chief Sohail Habib Tajak questioned Aasia Bibi for two weeks to determine who was behind the decision to poison the milk. Finally, she’d had enough and told them that it was her who had made the decision and Shahid who’d given her the poison.
The Only Defense
Aasia Bibi and Shahid Lashari appeared before a judge in the city of Muzaffargarh and admitted fully to the crime. As neither of them had lawyers, their only defense was that her parents’ decision to marry her to a man against her will, was what had driven her to do such a terrible thing. They added that they’d never meant to hurt anyone else and certainly not to the degree that they had…
Faisal Chingwani, a top human rights activist in the city of Multan, argued for Bibi after the fact. He believes that she committed the crime because of mental stress about the forced marriage and that such a thing is common amongst such unfair unions. Though a verdict has yet to be reached, what is clear is that Aasia will pay for her crimes, no matter how inadvertent they were.
Similar incidents to what happened to Aasia Bibi occur all over the region, though in some cases, it is the bride who ultimately suffers: not because she gave in to her family’s demands, but because she believed she could make a decision on her own. In the eastern city of Lahore, a brother, infuriated by his sister’s attempts to show her independence, took matters into his own hands…
Samar Ali shot and killed his sister, 25-year-old Mahwish Arif, all because she had recently wedded a man of her choice without the consent of her family. He had come home to visit her parents and brother when he fired three bullets at her, killing her instantly. He fled the scene and the police are currently looking for him. But this type of “honor killing” is not unusual in Pakistani culture either.
There are also tales of other young women, child brides in arranged marriages, who fought for their right to be free with the only means available to them. 14 year-old Wasila Umaru, a child bride from Nigeria was recently arrested for killing her 35-year-old husband, after being forced to marry him…
Wasila used the same method that Aasia did. After the wedding, the groom, Sani Umaru invited some friends to celebrate, but during the festivities, Wasila slipped rat poison into the rice that was being served. Sani and his friends all died that day and Wasila was freed from what was sure to be a very painful life as a child bride.
Casualties of Freedom
Unfortunately, the casualty of her freedom was that, despite her age, Wasila may be charged as an adult with culpable homicide. All of these stories really make you think though. It is of course wrong to kill anyone, but for these poor women, it seems like the only way to escape their oppressive husbands, was to take their lives and their husband’s lives, into their own hands.