(30 Dec 2016)
In deeply conservative regions of Pakistan the tribal exchange of girls between families is still a common practice, with most of them underage.
The tradition is in fact so entrenched it even has its own name in Urdu: Watta Satta, which means give and take.
A girl may be given away to pay a debt or settle a dispute between feuding families.
She might be married to a cousin to keep her dowry in the family or married for the prospect of a male heir.
That was the case for Mohammad Ramzan, living in Jampur, in the deep southern parts of Punjab province.
He can neither hear nor speak, and he is mentally challenged.
But the 36-year-old knew his wife, Saima, was too young when she was given to him as a bride.
The girl's father, Wazir Ahmed, says she was 14, not 13, but her age was beside the point.
It mattered only that she had reached puberty when he arranged her marriage as an exchange: his daughter for Ramzan's sister, whom he wanted to take as a second wife.
His first wife, Saima's mother, had given him only daughters, and he hoped his second wife would give him a son.
But Sabeel wouldn't marry him until her brother had a wife to care for him.
She would be a bride in exchange for a bride.
Many believe that their Islamic religion instructs fathers to marry their daughters at puberty.
"If it is not done, our society thinks parents have not fulfilled their religious obligation," says Faisal Tangwani, regional coordinator for the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in nearby Multan.
Ahmed sees the hand of God in his daughter's marriage to a disabled man.
He says that the fact that Ramzan is nearly three times his daughter's age is irrelevant.
But the legal marrying age here is 16, and in a rare move, police did investigate Saima's marriage after they received a complaint, possibly from a relative involved in a dispute with her father.
For a few days Ramzan and Ahmed were jailed, but Saima testified in court that she was 16 and they were released.
She says she told the authorities she was 16 to protect her father and husband.
In Saima's world of crushing poverty, where centuries old tribal traditions mix with religious beliefs, a crippling cycle traps even the perpetrators with a life's burden: a father who longs for a son to help support his family; a wife who must provide that son; a daughter who must become a mother even when she is still a child.
Saima's mother, Jannat, agrees with marrying off her daughters early.
She says girls are a 'headache' after they reach puberty.
They can't be left at home alone for fear of unwanted sexual activity -- or worse, the daughter leaves home with a boy of her choice.
Her husband's new wife, Sabeel, says she agreed to marry Ahmed because of her brother.
She wanted him to have a wife.
Ramzan's elderly parents live with him.
His father rarely leaves his bed, saying he has trouble walking.
His mother begs from morning until night, sometimes knocking on doors, other times parking herself in the middle of a dusty road, her hand outstretched for donations.
Like Ramzan, she can neither hear nor speak, and both her hips and one knee have been broken.
Saima meanwhile doesn't talk much. Her answers are short, and matter-of-fact.
Ramzan gestures that he is afraid Saima will leave him one day, and says that God will be unhappy if she does.
Saima says she understands her husband's gestures, but it's hard to know.
Most of the translations are done by his 12-year-old niece, Haseena, Sabeel's daughter from the previous marriage.
Back at Saima's old home, her seven-year-old sister, Asma has already been promised to her cousin, who is about 10.
They will marry when she reaches puberty.
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