Missing teenager case – 28 Apr 2022

CLARITY eludes several aspects of the Dua Zehra case.

The dilemma of not knowing which side to believe stems from hidden facts and contradictory descriptions of events.

According to her parents, who claim that their daughter is 14 years old, Dua was `kidnapped` on April 16 outside her home in Karachi`s Shah Faisal Colony. But earlier this week, news surfaced that Dua had contracted a `free-will marriage` with a 22-year-old student, Zaheer Ahmad. Dua`s age in her nikahnama, dated April 17, was 18 years, according to the police, who recovered the couple from Okara and took them into protective custody. Apparently, the success of her parents` attempts to obtain her custody rests on their coming up with substantive proof that their daughter is as old as they say she is. The court has yet to be convinced that she is not of marriageable age as it allowed her to leave with her `husband` when she refused to go to a shelter home.

Dua`s case is not uncommon. There have been several instances of young girls asserting they have married of their own free will while their parents have claimed that they were abducted. This has been especially observed in the Hindu community in Sindh where parents have alleged forced conversion and marriage of their daughters. Blackmailing, coercion and child grooming have existed in all ages but with the growth of online platforms, taking advantage of impressionable young minds has become much easier.

On the other hand, parents have also prevented, often forcibly, young women who are of age from marrying the man of their choice. However, it is the former category that is at more risk, as their unformed minds and emotions are exploited by criminal elements. Greater vigilance is required by parents as well as the state that must enforce the underage marriage laws, and punish all those who have abetted illegal marriages. Unfortunately, for all the laws that we have, child predators are still able to get away with their crimes.

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