A 13-year-old girl fled her father and uncle’s home a night before she was to wed a 55-year-old man.
Both the father and uncle of the girl, Sadia, were allegedly forcing her to marry a 55-year-old labourer Ijaz in exchange for Rs70,000. Her nikah was to be solemnised on Monday.
Saadia had been separated from her mother three months before when her uncle Mahboob Ahmed threw her mother and her siblings out of the family home.
The plucky 13-year-old spent Sunday night on the street and contacted a relative, Arshad Ali, by telephone on Monday.
Ali managed to reach the girl and located her mother after about four hours, at which point she was reunited with her mother and the rest of her siblings.
Saadia’s mother Kausar told The Express Tribune that her husband had begun fighting with her after her brother-in-law Mahboob requested that Saadia’s elder sister Iqra be married to him. Kausar said she and her three sons had opposed the marriage, which enraged Mahboob and made him throw her out of the family home. According to Kausar, Mahboob and Irshad wanted Saadia and her sisters to continue to live with them so that they could sell them off for large sums of money. Kausar said she had managed to escape with her elder daughter Iqra, but had been unable to recover Saadia because Mahboob used to threaten her.
Saadia told The Express Tribune she had learnt of her impending nuptials four days ago when Ijaz was brought to the house to see her. She said she had run away because she didn’t want to marry Ijaz, or any other man for that matter.
Ali, the relative who helped reunite Saadia with her mother, told The Express Tribune that Mahboob and Irshad had been harassing him and his family in an attempt to recover Saadia. Ali claimed that Mahboob had bribed the police, and was accusing Kausar and her relatives of having kidnapped Saadia.
Legal expert Muhammad Azhar Siddique, chairman of the Judicial Activism Panel, told The Express Tribune that anyone who tried to sell a girl into a marriage contract was guilty of committing an offence under Section 365-B of the Pakistan Penal Code. He said that according to this section, whoever kidnapped, abducted or compelled a woman to contract a marriage shall be punished with imprisonment for life, and shall be liable to pay a fine. He said an accused was also punishable under the Restraint of Child Marriage Act. Siddique added that he was ready to provide Saadia with legal aid if she needed it.
On her part, Saadia asserted that she would have committed suicide if she had not been able to run away, because she did not want to be forced into marriage.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2010.
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