Selling Daughters into Slavery is “Baad”



The word itself suggests evil: baad, the practice of making daughters pay for others’ crimes. A young girl becomes a slave and target for the rage that one family feels toward another. In the end, greater wrongs are committed than the original crime.

Baad is practiced in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The most well-known case is Bibi Aisha whose disfigured face shocked the world on an August 2010 cover of Time.

Aisha had been forced to marry at age 13 in retaliation for her uncle’s crime. 

She rarely saw her husband, a soldier. Instead, she slept in a barn with the animals, she was forced to serve her in-laws, and she was regularly beaten. Fearing for her life, she escaped. But once found, a Taliban-run court ordered her nose and ears cut off. Her husband took her out in the woods and readily obliged. After cutting her and leaving her for dead, Aisha crawled to her grandfather’s house and was transported to an American medical facility.

Shakila is another girl who was taken into slavery because her uncle committed adultery. She was kept in a dark room, not allowed a change of clothing, and fed only bread and water every other day. She was let out only to haul water or firewood or, ironically, for prayers.

Another girl named Wasifa was taken because a creditor was not paid. When she escaped her family killed her for the “dishonor” her fleeing had brought them.

The threat of baad is terrifying. One little girl who heard Wasifa’s story related:

Now we girls keep quiet and nod our heads… Some nights Wasifa comes to my dreams and I feel so scared, I am scared that this will happen to me or my sisters.

Mah Gul Yamam, a legal expert at the Afghan Human Rights Organization says baad is prohibited in Afghanistan — at least for widows and women over age 18:

A perpetrator bears personal responsibility for his crimes. This responsibility cannot be transferred to others. But unfortunately, in Afghanistan, when a man commits a crime, it is the females that have to bear the punishment.

Religious scholar, Maulawi Rahman Rahmani says baad should not be tolerated under Islam:

It is a serious sin to give away another’s life to escape punishment. It is the obligation of Islamic scholars to try and eliminate these unwanted traditions.

Yet the cultural callousness that blinds even fathers to their daughters’ suffering is remarkable.  Shakila’s father told the New York Times, “We did not mind giving girls.” And Human Rights Watch quotes a community member saying:

Instead of killing the brother it was much better to give this girl as baad. She was also killed in a way but if they killed the brother then the enmity between the two tribes would continue for centuries.

Are those the only two choices?

It’s easy to blame Afghanistan for their blindness. But we should look at how we may tolerate similar types of crimes. Whenever we tolerate arrests of young prostitutes who are forced into it (and even if they are not it is statutory rape), or whenever we blame rape victims and battering victims for the crimes committed against them, we blindly share in the girls’ torture.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on January 24, 2014, in feminism, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 31 Comments.

  1. Inhumane tragedy.Human trafficking is the crime of the century the UN is silent .Great post.

  2. Unfortunately, women and little girls, are still being traded, raped and getting killed in the name of “honour” in the year of 2014 and I think it will continue until women gets treated as human beings, ( not like a piece of furniture that can be sold or traded ), all around the world. I believe the pressure from the society and the culture plays a bigger role than the religion. I think it is important to educate the society on these topics however it is easier said than done, because such societies have isolated themselves from the rest of the world.
    It just horrifies me when I read about girls or women are being traded, raped, or sold as a slave or sex slave and getting abused. It just does not end. Unfortunately, no matter where we are coming from women are still suffering from the violence within the family or in the society all around the world. I think educating men and women can improve the society however implementing more decisive and harsh laws against the violence will play a bigger role.

  3. This is one of those topics that I have heard of but not known a lot about. I pride myself on trying to be educated on the worlds issues, and I am disappointed in myself for not knowing more. It is disturbing to think that we live in 2014 and women are still being seen as property that is expendable to men. I find it hard to grasp this concept from a religious or cultural perspective. I have never understood how people justify abuse, and how fathers, husbands, brothers, are able to preform the acts of badd. These poor women are constantly living in fear, what kind of a life is that?! I of course have a bias because I am a woman but I have never been able to wrap my head around the idea that women are not seen as an equal life. Women are the reason we are able to continue as a human race. Men come from women so how do they justify themselves as of higher being? It is important that men and women are educated on the value of a woman’s life, and more so the value of a human life. No matter the cultural influence, religion or tradition a life should be treated as just that, life and no one has the right to undermine that.

  4. It is appalling that still today such acts as badd are taking place and not just a few cases here and there but many cases each year and again not all cases are known or brought to light. I agree that the practice of badd is a cultural not religious driven practice but also is something so hard to change because these cultural aspects and practices have been around for so many years. The past is not so easily forgotten, walked away from or changed. How horrific it must be for these young girls to be given away as payment for another’s crime. While this seems to me to be such a horrible act and I may think how can one give away their own daughter I may not understand this concept but for another woman living in a culture that practices badd it is part of life something that one may be subjected to.

    In your posting you referenced an article for Shakila’s story after reading the article in full I was sick to my stomach. The practice of badd is not something I was so familiar with while I had heard of these kinds of practices I had not previously read any personal stories on the subject. In the article a man stated that “Giving baad has good and bad aspects,” said Fraidoon Mohmand, a member of Parliament from Nangarhar Province, who has led a number of jirgas. “The bad aspect is that you punish an innocent human for someone else’s wrongdoings, and the good aspect is that you rescue two families, two clans, from more bloodshed, death and misery.” ( I have to disagree completely with this statement as giving of a girl never fully appeases the wronged family and while the family may decide not to kill a male member of the other family there is still a person who in a sense in killed the poor girl who is given away as payment is killed a little more each day that she has to suffer for another’s crime. It greatly disturbed me that Shakila’s father was more concerned about the fact that he lost a daughter not because of losing his daughter but because she had previously been promised to another man for marriage as an infant. Often these girls are given to appease a family who has lost someone to a crime the girl is supposed to replace lost labor from the loss of the relative but it is not seen in these cultures that if the women are educated they can bring so much more not only to their families but to the country as well. Countries suffer because their women suffer because their women are under or uneducated. Women in other countries truly do not have the same freedoms or luxuries that many of us take for granted every day. How long will it be until women in these other countries have better equality and better lives.

  5. Maria Milam-Fernandez

    This is absolutely horrible. I have heard some of these stories before and they are terrifying. As a woman, I could not imagine paying for family members crimes. Growing up I was always told that we are responsible for our own actions. That is something that I have lived by for 26 years. In a way though, people do end up paying for other people’s crimes but not in such a terrible way as someplace like Afghanistan. When someone we love commits a crime and is sent to prison, we suffer. We cry, we miss them, we feel bad for the crimes they committed, even though we did not partake in the crime itself. Crime causes a vicious cycle of hurt. The practice of Baad should most definitely be outlawed all over the world. Men, who are willing to make women pay for their crimes, should be sentenced to life in a tiny room with no windows. People, especially the men in areas where baad is practiced, need to learn that a crime is an individual thing, and that individual is the one who pays.

  6. Such cases of abuse and lack of women’s rights, and equality in general, are atrocious and astonishing. This not only exemplifies wanton disregard for the women as humans, but it also shows a lack of basic human kindness. Or at least, human kindness that I still try to assume is “natural”.

    It is quite sad to think that primitive cultures were more equal, with many of them being matriarchies and sharing labor between genders. This is when cultural evolution stalls progress.

    Like has already been mentioned in previous comments, these communities would benefit greatly from allowing women into the labor force, and allowing them to be a part of running and maintaining the community. And it surely shouldn’t be acceptable to sacrifice anyone’s life for a crime – man or woman.

  7. It is astonishing how people can mistake religion for culture. The level of ignorance should not be tolerated anywhere on this globe. These countries are predominantly Muslim. Islam, based on the Qu’ran, respects and values women. Culture, on the other hand, objectifies women. In the United States, women are objectified as sexual objects. There, they are objectified to be dirt. It is crazy how patriarchy can influence the status of women, and as it varies from culture to culture.

  8. I dont think a women should be punished for a mans crime no matter what it is. A women should only be punished if she commits the crime herself and even then the women should only get jail (depending on the crime) or pay fines. But there should be no reason a person should have to cut of any body parts for punishment that is just cruel and inhumane. I think it is also wrong that this girl had to get married to a guy at the age of 13 because of what her family wanted to a man she didnt even know or love all because of her uncles crime. I think they have a lot of work to do in these countries for women and we need to all stand together and help these women become equal to men.

  9. This just disgusts me. I know things like this happen in other countries. It is not right. Why should someone be sold for someone else’s crime? Why does it have to be women who are sold? I do not understand how a mother and father could just sell their daughters to keep their sons out of prison for their crimes they committed. First of all, that is your own daughter, how could you just sell her to be a slave where she suffers because she is terribly mistreated? Second of all, whoever made the crime should get punished, they committed a crime! Take responsibility. I find it as an act of cowardice. Making someone else pay for your crime makes me feel like someone is afraid of the punishment. The thing that keeps running through my mind is that these are their family members they are selling. The fact that someone can sell a daughter, niece, or grandchild blows my mind. The way men treat women in other countries is astonishing. Without women, they have no way of reproducing children, so why not treat them better? They should be more cherished because they can bring a child to life that can carry on a man’s name. isn’t that a good enough reason to treat them better?

  10. I find it appalling that these young girls are being tortured because of religious or familial circumstances. It’s sad to see that their choices are limited because of their gender and position in their families, such as Aisha who had to pay for her uncle’s crime by marrying into a family who despised her. It’s sad to think a judicial system took part in condoning the cutting of her ears and nose. It’s disheartening that someone could dehumanize another person, yet a young girl. One thing the article noted is that ‘we should look at how we may tolerate similar types of crimes’. Indeed, when you think of the suicide of a young girl named Audrie Potts from Saratoga, CA, a horrible violation of a young girl too intoxicated to fight off boys who took advantage of her body, killed herself days later. Although it was proven the boys were guilty of wrong doing, her reputation was tainted, even turning it into it being her fault. My heart goes out to her family, no matter what, her life was more precious than suicide.

  11. Why is it always women ? Why do we either get beaten, raped , violated or simply put down because we have no voice in some situations and men are always seen to be superior .I think baad is such an ignorant thing it doesn’t make sense to me how different cultures or even men can treat women like they are truly nothing with no meaning. Women are just to obey and be home waiting in this case she is a slave for her uncles fault because he committed adultery .Why doesn’t he get his part cut off or abused ? Men think that there ego is superior so they just make up this rule to throw in an innocent girl to show significance of what ?? That these man cant even except what they did so they throw an innocent girl to take the blame so in the outcome she’s the warrior who takes the bullet for her own family who sells her out and now she has to go through life with her disfigured face . This article truly just shows us how evil our world is and while here in America women may have equal rights other women in other countries are so miserable and with no hope . it just shows me that in order for us women to be heard we must keep on opening each others eyes and society eyes and see what’s going on around us . We may think that while we are equal deep down it may not even be true .Regardless of culture or religion if we all have our own god and beliefs where does it say in any of those religions that’s its okay to treat women like nothing and if so is it a man written scription or a god written scription but I do get that people do get caught up in there religion and beliefs and we cant take that away from them . But what I do believe is that wherever a women is being mistreated she has the right to be protected and to move on from her misery as she wants to at the end of the day we are all human beings and no one deserves to be mistreated and women with no voice and in help should be able to get help just imagine yourself in those shoes.

  12. I never knew about this BAAD practice . Thanks for the information. And yes its shame that we live in such a world where a girl or a woman is disrespected in such a bad way. I have heard so bad stories that he heats my blood.!

  13. It’s awful! I feel sorry for those girls. I cant believe there’s cruel things like that still happened these days, especially in this civilized world. Sometimes i just don’t know why only women always have to suffer from culture issues. It’s really unfair!!! Although there are some different functions between men and women, that doesn’t mean women are least important or cant be compared to men. Both were born the same way, have same civil rights. So, we all deserve to be treated respectfully and equally.
    I grew up in a small country in South East Asia where culture impacts the most in women life. And i see how hard women have to deal to struggle for a better life. Hopefully somedays in the near future, people will see and treat each other as human instead, with our heart & mind opened.

  14. Mei Yan Anson Lui

    I was mad after reading this article. Baad is actually a kind of slavery or even worser than that which is unfair and cruel to women. It did not fair that “when a man commits a crime, it is the females that have to bear the punishment”. In my opinion, everyone should bear the responsibilities according to their faults or crimes, no matter who you are or which country are you in. It is nonsense to let others to take over your responsibilities or punishments. Human includes men and women and I do not believe that men are more superior than women. I found that the problems of gender inequality are still serious and it is time for us to change our mind and be an open-minded intelligentsia.

  15. First I agree with the opinion that culture is more a problem than religion. I heard of some cultures/traditions that hurt people, especially women, regardless of whether the people there are religious. In one or more villages in a country in Central Asia, for example, there seem to be a culture that men kidnap women and force them to get married to the men.
    I think one of the solutions to such problems is to educate people there. I heard of a woman who were kidnapped by her current husband years ago, and she now works as a member of NPO that supports educating young men not to commit kidnapping. Those people who grew up in the cultures might find it difficult to question their customs, but I hope all will be respectful to equality of men and women anyway.

  16. Hello G 😀 As you have said in another comment it is the culture and tradition of certain countries that allow these atrocities. Only a few people really understood what was going on years ago. Now we have instant news, picked up by every country. Services such as YouTube expose such events immediately as almost everyone has a cell phone throughout the world. And then there are dedicated people in those communities that abhor such actions and get it out. So we are living in a time of instant exposure. There is nowhere to hide for such cultures and such a way of life any more. And that’s a good thing. Ralph xox 😀

  17. This story parallels with topics we are learning about in a Women’s Studies class I’m taking.
    Men have long controlled the symbolic imagery of the peoples minds. Once, it was common of consider women and children the same thing, immature. Men through history have taken the important roles as politicians and artists. They created many of the things we know, even what we can think about ourselves.

    Common themes from different cultures about Women are things like sex objects and invisible Women. These are themes found in several cultures. Categorizing Women like this is much a male tendency. These types of ideas about Women make Women less like real people.

    The imagery around the world is pretty one sided.

    Even basic language shows inequality. We think of the word “Man” and that means people. Someone hopes to “Master” something and not “mistress” it.

    These types of imagery teach young people the ways of the world. And what do we know about young people? That they really don’t know everything.

    “The human body is not merely flesh and bones; it is also a cultural construct” (Women’s Realties, Women’s Choices). Everything about a person is somehow shaped by their culture.
    Everything we used to view ourselves is somehow based on the perceptions and expectations of others.
    Women through history have been more prone to control from the culture about their bodies.

    Even the imagery in the media (which it primarily made of white men) shows women as “beautiful” “sexy” “intelligent” “perfect”, and I think even these standards are a form of control.

  18. This article does not discuss economic realities in south asia.It is difficult to expect female empowerment in poorer countries.

    • The best way to bolster economies in poor countries, lifting men, women and children alike — including in South Asia — is educating girls and women and increasing equality for them.

      When Lawrence Summers was chief economist of the World Bank and top economic advisor for President Obama, he said that “educating girls yields a higher rate of return than any other investment available in the developing world.”

      See more here (RESULTS is an organization I work with):

      Also see what New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof has to say (a few quotes):

      There are a couple of reasons countries that marginalize women often end up unstable.

      First, those countries usually have very high birth rates, and that means a youth bulge in the population. One of the factors that most correlates to social conflict is the proportion of young men ages 15 to 24.

      Second, those countries also tend to practice polygamy and have higher death rates for girls. That means fewer marriageable women — and more frustrated bachelors.

      Consider Bangladesh. After it split off from Pakistan, Bangladesh began to educate girls in a way that Pakistan has never done. The educated women staffed an emerging garment industry and civil society, and those educated women are one reason Bangladesh is today far more stable than Pakistan.

      Read more here:

  19. So true. We need to see what is also going on here- it may not be as blatant as elsewhere but stuff happens every day. It may not be “slavery” but there are different kinds of bondage and servitude taking place to our girls as we speak. Time to bring awareness to it all.

  20. This is so upsetting. A coworker was just telling me yesterday about a young girl who was gang-raped by 13 men in India as a punishment for planning to marry a boy from a different community. She’s now in critical condition. It makes me sick. And violent.

  21. I like that you included that part about Islamic scholars. Practices like this are not as much about religious tradition as they are about gender equality. If men and women, boys and girls, were seen as equals, a practice like this would cease to exist.

    • Yes. I don’t think religion, whether Islam, Christianity or anything else is the problem, so much as culture. Which sometimes latches on to religion and uses it as an excuse. But as you can see here, the two are actually at odds, if you really understand the religion.

  22. We live in such a broken world. A man (or anyone, for that matter) should be ashamed to let a child take the responsibility and punishment for his own crimes.

    • Yes, so sad. Yet when it’s a part of the culture, people usually don’t think to question it. You have st start a dialogue to take people out of their taken-for-granted assumptions.

  23. I was in Asia and Africa. Woman have a hard life. We have a long way to go to where women and children are safe. This is a sad story. Common in too many places in our world.

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