Watta satta: Police defer action on underage marriages

Published: February 25, 2012
Families say girls are old enough, fail to provide evidence.

Families say girls are old enough, fail to provide evidence.


Cantonment police on Friday deferred action on an underage marriage complaint till opinion of a deputy superintendent of police (legal) was available in the matter.

On Thursday, a police team had raided and stopped a watta satta (exchange) marriage of two girls on a complaint filed by Shafiq Dogar, president of Star Welfare Organisation, a non-governmental organisation working for promotion of women and children’s rights.

The complainant had stated that Saima* and Saadia* were 14 and 12, respectively. Saima was being married to Saadia’s brother, Qasim*, 30, and Saadia was being married to Saima’s brother Abid Ali*, 50.

Police said the nikah of Saima and Qasim had been solemnised when they reached the scene in Chak 49 and stopped the ceremony. Abid Ali and Saadia’s nikah was prevented.

SHO Shahid Sultan told The Express Tribune that he was also waiting for the families of the girls to provide evidence in support of their claim that the girls were old enough for marriage.

“They said the girls were 16 years old and assured the raiding team that they will submit their birth certificates in a day,” he said.

The families had not contacted the police until Friday evening. The SHO said he would wait for DSP (Legal) Fazal Cheema’s opinion before registering an FIR in the matter.

Complainant Shafiq Dogar told The Tribune that he had filed an application at the Cantonment police station for action against the parents of the girls. He said they had failed to provide evidence to back up their claim that the girls were old enough to get married.

Dogar said he was informed about the marriage by a worker of his NGO who was related to the girls.

Muslim Family Law Ordinance of 1961

According to the Muslim Family Law Ordinance of 1961, a girl under the age of 16 is a child whose marriage is illegal.

In cases where girls are under 16 years old, the Hanafi school allows the groom and the bride’s father to sign a temporary nikah contract. The girl cannot be sent to the groom’s house until she has attained the age of 16 years and approved the contract.

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of the victims

Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2012.

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