Authorities reported on Monday that Mosques in the Indian technology hub of Hyderabad are joining a growing campaign to stop schoolgirls being sold into child marriages to older Arab men as brides.
“India launched an investigation last week into the marriage of a 16-year-old girl with a 65-year-old Oman national in exchange for 500,000 Indian rupees ($7,800) after she contacted her mother from Muscat crying for help. Hyderabad police said the girl’s father had given fake documents regarding her age – as girls in India cannot legally marry until age 18 – and has been taken into custody for questioning. The police are looking for the qazi who performed the wedding in a Hyderabad hotel. Campaigners said scores of such marriages are performed every year and in most cases the girls are abused physically and sexually, or pushed into domestic servitude.”
Imtyaz Rahim is the district’s child protection officer in Hyderabad, and said, “In the past, we have got licenses of qazis cancelled for performing such weddings. We are now asking them for mandatory checks of the bride’s age proof. We are also asking mosques to include messages against such marriages in their sermons.”
Rahim explained that the announcements at mosques will increase awareness against the issue. The authorities have been cracking down on child marriages in this region as well as surrounding areas. However, most of the marriages with Arab men are carried out in secret. So it is more effective to gain people’s attention through sermons at mosques.
Marriages arranged with rich, usually older Arab men, have been prevalent for many decades in Hyderabad, which is a hub for global information technology companies. The parents of the girls virtually exchange their daughters for a cash payment.
“Jameela Nishat, founder of Shaheen’s Women’s Resource and Welfare Association, said stricter laws against child marriage in India have been effective. “But girls are now being taken to Gulf nations on work or 40-day visit visas and trapped in marriage,” she said.”
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