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‘Forcibly converted’ girl sent back to shelter home

‘Forcibly converted’ girl sent back to shelter home

Karachi: Anjali Meghwar, a Hindu girl who was allegedly kidnapped in Daharki, forcibly converted, renamed Salma and then married to one of her Muslim kidnappers, was sent back to a shelter home by the Sindh High Court on Friday and the prosecution was told to prove that she was underage before a trial court where her husband was being tried under the child marriages restraint law.

The directives came on a petition filed by Anjali’s father, Kundan Das Meghwar, against the kidnapping, forced conversion and marriage of his daughter and a counter-petition filed by Ramzan Bibi, the mother of Riaz Sial to whom she was married.

On Wednesday, the high court had allowed the girl to live with her spouse as she had refused to go home with her Hindu parents.

Kundan Dad submitted in the petition that her 12½ -year-old daughter Anjali Meghwar was abducted, forcibly converted to Islam and married to one of her Muslim kidnappers, but the Ghotki police were not taking action against the culprits.

His counsel said the petitioner had lodged a case under sections 3 and 4 of the Child Marriages Restraint Act XV 2014, complaining that Siyal, an adult, had married his minor daughter.

Riaz’s mother denied the allegations and submitted that the girl had married her son of her own free will.

The court observed that the girl had stated at all forums that she had not been abducted and eloped with Siyal and married him of her own free will.

The court also observed that she was allowed to meet with her husband and parents separately and then given an hour to think without being disturbed by anyone.

The girl then appeared in the judges’ chamber in the presence of her husband, her parents and their lawyers and stated that she was 18 years old, had reached puberty, married Siyal of her own free will and intended to leave with him.

The court directed the investigation officer to file her statement in the trial court, which was trying the abduction case, as after her denial, the offence became an exercise in futility.

Kundan Das’ counsel pointed out that girl was a minor and according to her father she is only 12½ years old. He added that a case under the child marriages restraint law had already been registered against Siyal and she could not be allowed to leave with her husband.

When the court asked the investigation officer as to whether the girl’s age had been determined by the medical board, the latter submitted that according to its report she was 14 or 15 years.

The court observed that there were three different versions of the girl’s age and she could not be allowed to leave with her husband until this matter became clear as it frustrated the very purpose of the child marriages restraint act.

However, the court also noted that the determination of her age by the SHC would amount to preempting the pending proceedings before the trial court, where Siyal was being tried under the child marriages restraint act.

The court noted that as the girl was unwilling to return with her parents, she would be kept at a shelter home and the prosecution would have to prove her actual age before the court where Siyal was being tried.

Disposing of the petitions, the bench said that in case the girl changed her mind, she could leave with her parents.

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