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Child marriage forestalled

KARACHI – A four-year old girl was about to be forced into matrimony with a seven-year-old boy, her cousin, when a complaint lodged at the Nazimabad police station led the police to interrupt the ceremony and arrest some of the family members on both sides.

According to details, both the families live in Mujahid Colony in Nazimabad, Block-4, and are related to one another.

The two children, it was learnt, were engaged a few months ago. Nazakat Ali Effendi, who is also the Vice-President of the PPP of Central Zone, told The News that he had repeatedly tried persuading the families not to marry the children as child marriage was absolutely illegal.

However, depite the pleas and warnings, Nisha, daughter of Nasir, and Waseem, son of Ismail, were brought together late Thursday night for their wedding ceremony. Nazakat says that he had presuaded some boys to keep him abreast of any developments in the situation, and, as soon as he got to know from them that the two were getting married, he again tried to persuade the family not to go through with it. However, they refused to listen.

“I was not going to stand by and watch two children get married like this,” says an angry Nazakat. “I went and reported the matter to the police.”

However, a contradiction remains in the matter of the FIR. Zia Awan of LHRLA says that the SHO Nazimabad, Inspector Changez, had called up to find out about the Section under which the FIR was to be filed, but the Nazimabad police says that it is confirmed that the FIR has not been filed. Changez was not available for comment.

Meanwhile, police say that the matter has been filed for prosecution, which means that the District Deputy-Officer (DDO) will act as Magistrate and handle the matter in Court No. 12 on November 1 (today). “We only file a ‘prosecution’ report for such cases, not an FIR,” say officials of the Nazimabad police.

In cases where children are married illegally, two laws may be applied. One is the Child Marriage Restraint Act, under which the accused may receive up to two months of imprisonment with fine. The other, which is reportedly hardly ever pressed into service, is the Sindh Children Act, 1955, in which it is deemed cruelty towards children (regardless of what the relationship of the perpetrator with the child may be), could result in up to two years of imprisonment according to Section 48.

Nazakat says that complaining to the police has damaged his ties with the families and that he now fears for his life. “While I was at the police station, unknown people came, fired at my house, smashed the windows and left,” he said.
Source: The News
Date:11/1/2008

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