Saga of minor marriages goes on

Hyderabad, July 01: Here’s the reality check of the city police’s claim that it is closely monitoring contract marriages.

On Thursday, the marriage certificate issuing section of the Wakf Board was processing two applications one involving a 75-year-old Arab sheikh from UAE who got married to a 22-year-old girl from Miralam Mandi area of Old City. The other applicant was a 42-year-old Omani national who got married to a 21-year-old girl. Both the marriages were performed in June and officials said such applications for certificates were routine.

That contract marriages are under the scanner was not exactly being felt in the corridors of Wakf office, where officers said the marriage certificates of both applicants would be given since all the papers along with the signatures of the `young brides’ were in place. Alerting the police on these cases clearly did not cross the mind of officials here as they shrugged that Wakf was a ‘toothless’ body with no powers to control the contract marriage menace. “We don’t have much say in the matter. If the documents are in place, we are supposed to issue the certificates. Besides, the marriage was performed by a government-appointed qazi,” said a senior Wakf official.

Citizens of Oman and Saudi Arabia have to obtain marriage permission from their respective embassies to get married in India. So far this year, the board has issued certificates to 329 foreign nationals, including NRIs. There are no rules governing marriages of foreign nationals from other countries (excluding Oman and Saudi Arabia).

Activists working in the Old City are now demanding more powers for the Wakf Board, saying that the body which gets information about such marriages should be given some regulatory powers. “Wakf Board should have the power to control these marriages as they form the first point of contact for marriage certificates,” said an activist. While the girls continue to be shipped to other countries in the garb of marriage, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, which governs the Shariah Application Act in India, has remained quiet on this matter.

The members say that under Islam, consent of the would-be groom and the would-be bride is a must. “No girl would want to marry a man much older to her. This is solely happening because of money. Parents are in fact selling their daughters,” says Abdul Raheem Qureshi, assistant joint secretary of the board. According to him, these incidents have subsided in recent times.

“Decades ago, this practice was rampant and we had raised our voice condemning it. Now, with the cases coming to light recently, we are taking stock of the situation,” said Qureshi. Until that happens, Hyderabad may earn itself the dubious distinction of being the country’s undisputed bride bazaar.

-Courtesy: Times Of India