The Hyderabad district administration has decided to spread the message against child marriage and ‘contract marriages’ of minor girls and women with elderly persons from Gulf countries.
Last week, a woman in the city alleged that her 16-year-old daughter was married off to a 65-year-old Omani national three months ago. In her complaint to the Hyderabad police, the woman accused her sister-in-law and her husband of facilitating the her daughter’s marriage to the man after taking Rs 5 lakh from him. The Omani national was also accused of harassing the teenage girl. The police later registered a case and initiated measures to safely bring back the girl from Oman.
According to Hyderabad district child protection officer Imtyaz Rahim, the number of “contract marriages” in old city area have come down compared to the past few years. “A change is visible…but in certain pockets of the old city, such marriages are still reported because the mediators/brokers lure poor families in performing such marriages by conniving with qazis (those who preside over the wedding) after offering money (taken from the elderly grooms) to the bride’s family,” he said.
Rahim said they have asked the qazis to check the age of brides before performing marriages. “Over the past couple of years, we have also got the licenses of qazis cancelled after they were found performing such marriages,” he said. The authorities are already spreading awareness about the illegality of child marriages and contract marriages. They are also making people aware of various government schemes for girls’ education, Rahim told PTI.
“Now we are planning to spread messages to prevent such marriages through mosques to create awareness among the community…it will start very soon,” he said. “We will write to the Wakf Board to ask mosques to spread messages against such marriages,” the officer said.
The Hyderabad police had in the past busted several ‘contract marriage’ rackets in the old city area. These marriages were performed with fabricated documents and in some cases, the agents fixed the alliances and foreigners purchased ‘brides’ for sexual exploitation.
The modus operandi of such agents was to trap minor girls from poor families by luring them with money and then practically selling them off to foreigners with the help of priests who solemnised such marriages using fabricated documents, according to police. At the time of marriage itself, the bride was made to sign blank bond papers of ‘talaq’, the police added.