Police foiled a watta satta marriage arranged between a nine-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl on Friday.
According to police officials, Moza Surgana resident Ejaz Ahmed was set to marry Shazia and in-exchange their siblings Farzana, 14, and Amir Hussain, 9, were set to tie the knot on Friday afternoon. “There is nothing wrong with this match. All the parties had agreed and the children wanted the marriage,” said the bridegroom Amir’s mother Amira Bibi. “The police has no right to interfere in this instance. This is a private matter and no one was harmed. We don’t have to consult the police before settling on a match for our children,” said Farzana’s mother Mukhtar Bibi.
Mailsi Circle DSP Malik Daud and SHO Mitro Muhammad Aslam said they arrested the parents of the children after they received a tip off that two minors were being wed. “This has nothing to do with the parent’s wishes or the fact that the children agreed to the match.
The marriage of minors is illegal,” said Daud. “We need to raise awareness about the fact that underage marriages are wrong, regardless of tradition or culture. The children may have agreed to the marriage but a nine-year-old boy is not capable of making such a decision,” said an NGO worker Shabnam Batool.
Mitro police officials said that they raided a home on Friday afternoon.
“The entire place was packed with wedding guests and we saw the couples sitting on stage. “Ejaz and Shazia are of the legal age to get married but the watta satta of their younger siblings is wrong,” said Aslam.
Amir Hussain’s father Fida Hussain said “The police has no business to interfere in these matters. This is a custom of our land and we are not going to begin to adopt western customs. My son agreed to marry Farzana and she obeyed her parents,” he said. “There is nothing criminal in it,” he added.
Mitro police interrogated both couples under the Marriage Act and registered separate cases against the parents of both minor’s in the case. “They have ruined our wedding in the process and we cannot tolerate such injustice,” said Ejaz.
Muhammad Nawaz and Fida Hussain told reporters that the police had insulted them and arrested them over a wrong tip. “They thought this marriage was illegal because we were forcing the children but after they asked them both said they had agreed to the match. There is no case here,” Fida said.
“Ejaz and Shazia were going to get married and under the watta satta tradition Amir and Farzana’s nikah was also decided,” Muhammad Nawaz said.
“This has been happening in our family for decades. We will not stop it because the police and forces are trying to force us to adopt western norms,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2011.