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Published in the 16-30 Jun 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

AP Waqf Board to monitor child marriages

Hyderabad: Cases of child marriage with Arab nationals in South Indian towns and cities, especially in Hyderabad and Kozhikode, and the successive failure of such marriages have been reported in the media from time to time.

Hyderabad is well-known for its Arab links since the Nizam days. Arab nationals, who visit the city, mostly on tourist visas, entice poor Muslim families with promises of lucrative jobs and luxurious life. Poor parents marry off their daughters to such Arabs for monetary consideration. Most of these marriages end up in divorces. After fulfilling their carnal desires, most of the Arab grooms forsake their wives and leave the country without giving their proper addresses. 

These abandoned wives, mostly teenage girls, face great psychological and physiological problems, and some even end up into flesh trade.

No Muslim organisation had shown any interest earlier in bringing an end to these marriages. Now Andhra Pradesh Waqf Board has decided to probe such cases after a recent publicised incident in which a 73-year-old UAE national Mohammed Jaffar Yaqoob Hasan Al Jorani married and subsequently divorced three teenage girls within a short span of four weeks. Jorani was arrested after one of the girls lodged a complaint with the police. The Waqf Board has now decided to tighten the procedure of marriage with Arab nationals.

The girl, Haseena Begum (17), went to the police after she was divorced by Jorani barely 48 hours after their “marriage”. The Waqf Board sacked Qazi Ahmed Sharief who had performed the nikah ceremony. The Board has now formed a marriage cell to monitor such marriages.

Famous cases like Ameena or Haseena are just the tip of iceberg. There are many more girls who fall victim to the pleasure-seeking sex maniacs and greedy brokers. Contract marriages have become a norm for such tourists. For police it is difficult to intervene in such cases. They act only after receiving complaints by the victims or their parents. The police cannot have a tight watch on Arab nationals as most of them come to India on tourist or visit visas for recreation and medical checkup and treatment.

The Board has now made it mandatory for foreign nationals to seek its permission before marrying Hyderabadi girls. The qazis have been instructed to strictly follow the guidelines of the Board. It has warned that if a qazi performs such marriages without informing the cell, he would be sacked and prosecuted. The Board will look into the antecedents of the grooms and after ascertaining certain things it will give a go-ahead for the marriage.

If the Board follows its newly formed principles of foreign marriages, this will definitely scale down the cases of divorce and child marriage. Senior citizens and Urdu media can play a positive part in this social reform. 

— Manzar Imam

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