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December 4, 2020

‘Women Protection Act overrides federal law allowing under-18 marriage’

Karachi

December 4, 2020

A judicial magistrate on Thursday reserved the order on the charge sheet submitted by the police in the case of 13-year-old Arzoo Fatima, who had converted from Christianity to Islam and married a man almost thrice her age.

The Frere police had charged Azhar Ali with forcing a child into marriage and committing rape, and cleric Qazi Abdul Rasool and lawyers Mehmood Hassan and Junaid Siddiqui with facilitating the underage marriage.

District South Judicial Magistrate XXIII Ali Muhammad Dall heard the arguments of lawyers Jibran Nasir and Luke Victor, representing complainant Raja Masih, who is Arzoo’s father. The complainant’s counsels made the argument before the JM that the investigating officer had excluded the section pertaining to the girl’s abduction from the charge sheet.

They said the case attracted seven different sections, including 364-A (kidnapping to murder), 365-B (kidnapping or inducing woman to compel for marriage), 375 (rape), 377 (unnatural offences), 328-A (exposure and abandonment of child under 12 by parent or guardian) and 368 (wrongfully concealing kidnapped person) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Opposing the defence’s reference of the provisions of the federal and Shariah laws that allow marriage on attaining puberty, they argued that after the promulgation of the Women Protection Act 2016, marriage of any under-18 woman is considered rape, which is a punishable offence.

They said cleric Abdul Shakoor Naqshbandi, who had issued the certificate of conversion to Arzoo, and Qazi Abdul Rasool, who had performed the Nikah on the basis of the fake documents that showed the girl’s age to be 18 years old, were also liable to be punished under the law.

They pleaded that the court direct the IO to include the above-mentioned sections in the charge sheet so that the suspects could be tried properly. In the last hearing, the defence counsels had opposed the inclusion of the sections of rape and the Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act. The court adjourned the matter until December 7 to pronounce the verdict.