Arranged marriage
'Vani' marriages, that settle disputes between families, are illigal but commonplace in Pakistan REUTERS/Insiya Syed

Police in Pakistan say that they have halted the marriage of a 10-year-old girl who was due to wed a 14-year-old boy to settle a dispute triggered by the girl's brother murdering his wife. The 'Vani' marriages, used to settle disagreements or criminality, are illegal in Pakistan but still common among some communities.

According to reports from Pakistan the marriage was ordered by village elders and was due to take place in Punjab's Rahimyar Khan District on Friday 4 March before it was stopped by police. As a result of the investigation four village elders have been arrested after a raid of the area.

According to the BBC, the girl's brother is currently in prison after he was alleged to have murdered his wife after he suspected her of an affair. A council of village elders, known as panchayat, were contacted by the family in order to settle the conflict.

The council ordered the child marriage, which was taking place amongst a minority Hindu community living in Rahimyar Khan. Under Pakistani law, relatives of a murder victim have the right to pardon a perpetrator in return for blood money or a compromise.

Honour killings, child marriages and vani marriages remain commonplace in Pakistan amongst Hindu and Muslim communities. Often perpetrators from poorer families are most likely to be prosecuted.

The Child Marriage Restraint Act passed in 2015 proposed harsher punishments for those entering marriage with minors, including prison terms of up to two years, and raising the minimum age of marriage to 18. In May 2014, the CII ruled that Pakistan's current laws stipulating 16 as the minimum age for marriage were "un-Islamic", and said girls as young as nine could be married "if signs of puberty are visible".

The charity Girls not Brides, who campaigns for changes in laws and policies concerning child brides, estimates that about 20 per cent of girls in Pakistan are married before the age of 18. But despite the high figures, Pakistan is one of a number of countries to have pledged to end child marriage by 2030, under the UN's Sustainable Development goals.