Arrested buying child bride
Child brides are still a social issue in the Middle East and globally. But there is more awareness and legal attention on this social malaise, with countries like India raising their legal age for marriage to 21.
An Emirati man has been arrested in India on suspicion of buying an underage wife he planned to bring back to the UAE to double up as his spouse and housemaid.
The 47-year-old from Sharjah and his new bride, 18-year-old Sana Sultana, were captured by cops in Hyderabad
yesterday after an anonymous tip-off from a community member that their marriage was a sham.
India now has strict laws on weddings based on cash and influence and recently upped the legal marriageable age for a woman to 21.
A Hyderabad Police official said officers were suspicious of the sudden nuptials and sent Sultana for medical tests which showed she is 18, not 21 as her new groom told detectives.
During a live televised press conference the official said: “This is not acceptable and under the new law this is ruled
out completely. We got a tip-off and we raided their house.
“We have investigated and believe we have all the facts. We think the marriage is illegal and a very serious offence.”
BRIDE AND GLOOM FOR WANNABE HUSBAND
The police released footage of an interview with Sultana in which she says she believed she was moving to the UAE to work as a cleaner.
She told investigators her groom had assured her it was normal to marry a prospective employer.
“I have a sister in Dubai and she said I should go there to support my family,” she said. “She suggested I get married and that the money would help my mother and the rest of us because we are very poor.”
The police official would not reveal the amount Sultana’s family are alleged to have received but did say: “It was a very big amount”.
However, Sultana said: “He gave my family a car and a house.”
The pair are in custody and face charges of illegal marriage and fraud. If convicted, the Emirati will be deported to the UAE with a lifetime travel ban in India and his young bride will face months behind bars.
Both deny any wrongdoing.
Police say such cases are taken very seriously in light of recent national legislation designed to protect young women, particularly those from poor backgrounds whose families are vulnerable to cash bribes thinly veiled as generous dowries.
A spokesman for Campaign Against Bride Trafficking in India said: “Girls from poor backgrounds are duped.”
By Nichola Jones