Watta Satta in women’s interest: WB study
The paper, Bride Exchange and Women’s Welfare in Rural Pakistan, conducted by the World Bank and authored by Hanan G Jacoby and Ghazala Mansuri, says a bride exchange accompanied by mutual retaliatory threats could be a mechanism to coordinate the actions of two sets of in-laws, each of whom wish to restrain their sons-in-law, but only have the ability to restrain their sons.
According to the paper, the likelihood of marital discord is lower in watta satta arrangements as compared to conventional marriages. “This result emerges most strongly in the case of estrangement, the clearest and most publicly observable expression of marital discord.”
The paper says that there is no difference in the rate of divorce or separation (around 1.5 percent) between women in watta satta marriages and those in conventional marriages.
The paper stresses that exchange marriage might serve as a mechanism to curtail the financial burden of dowry. It adds that if dowry is principally a price for husbands, the advantage of marrying a daughter into her sister-in-law’s family is clear: it establishes a double-coincidence of wants, obviating the need to exchange money or wealth at the time of the joint marriage.
“In rural Pakistan dowry values are relatively modest and dowry assets are generally controlled by the woman herself rather than delivered directly to her in-laws.”
The data used in the paper has been taken from the Pakistan Rural Household Survey-second round (PRHS-II) undertaken in 2004-05.
The authors said: “Our sample consists of about 3,100 married woman aged between 15 to 40 in households randomly sampled from 171 villages in Punjab and Sindh provinces.”
The paper says that a vast majority of watta satta marriages (94 percent) involves at least one brother-sister pair, and most (72 percent) involve a brother-sister pair on both sides. “The second most popular watta satta arrangement (16 percent) is when at least one of the households (but rarely both) contributes an uncle-niece pair.” The study adds that various other combinations occur as well, though none in significant numbers.
The results of the samples taken for the paper show that nearly two-thirds of the women (62 percent) have married men from the same or a neighbouring village and only 20 percent have married outside their tehsil. Even more striking is the extent of marriage within the clan and caste: 77 percent of women have married a blood relative, mostly first cousins with a preference for the paternal side; 4.13 percent have married someone not related by blood but within the same caste, the authors said.
Source: Daily Times