By: Fatima Nasir Raja
Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy and security of individuals.
Fouzia, a 12 year old girl from the village Wadero Umar Rajar in the province of Sindh, was reunited with her mother on the 14th February 2016 after being kidnapped and detained for over three months.
Due to lack of resources and poverty, Fouzia was never able to enroll herself into a school. Like many girls in Pakistan, Fouzia was working as an Agrarian human resource in the fields of the very rich and powerful landlord, Umar Rajjar. Query as to why Fouzia was kidnapped by her own employer (with the support of his relatives) concludes to a very widely practiced reasoning in Pakistan – to settle a family dispute. A woman, whose honor is a very controversial topic in Pakistan, is also a very user friendly tool to put forward while addressing any dispute in the villages of Pakistan. This is further compounded by the fact the women in villages simply have no choice but to oblige towards whatever directions given to them by their male family members. In Fouzia’s case, her fate was decided upon the actions of her elder brother. Her elder brother, who is now completely out of the entire scenario, eloped with a girl from another village and married her in court. The couple has since not come back yet, leaving Fouzia and her family to bear the consequences of her brother’s actions.
In mid-December, Fouzia’s elder sister Sabeen age 16 years, was kidnapped by Fouzias and Sabeen’s employer, through Ahmad Rajjar (relative of Umar Rajjar). Sabeen was forcefully married, shortly after her kidnapping, to Muhammad Akram. Following Sabeen’s kidnapping, Fouzia was also kidnapped by the same, and was forcibly married to the 40 year old Ahmad Rajjar. Meanwhile, parents of the girls were forlorn and completely desperate at the mercy of their employer, Umar Rajjar.
On the 27th of February 2016, Fouzia’s mother Zubaida filed a petition in the Hyderabad High Court for the recovery of her two daughters. In the case of Fouzia, marriage validation could not be proven and the judge ruled in Fouzia’s favor. A miraculous recovery was sought via a pre-admissible hearing on 14th March 2016.
The same was not in Sabeen’s fate. On the 14th of March 2016, Sabeen was produced in court where she stated in open court that ‘she has contracted marriage with Muhammad Akram and she wants to go with her husband Muhammad Akram’. Fouzia’s parents believe that Sabeen was made to share that statement via duress. And unfortunately for Fouzia, Fouzia’s recovery resulted in the arrest of her father, Shafi Muhammad and her other brother under fake FIR. Now Zubaida was left with increased expenses to be able to get her husband and son out of jail, which she obviously could not afford.
One can easily categorize this case study as of one those, the rich vs the poor classics. Since Fouzia’s recovery; Fouzia, her Mother Zubaida, and her 3 other young brothers are facing serious threats and feel that few people are continuously following them. Fouzia along with her complete family were compelled to live on the streets. Fouzia then registered herself with SPARC’s CSC (Center for Street Children) at Hyderabad. While talking to SPARC’s CSC staff team at Hyderabad, Fouzia mentioned that she heard about the CSC from the judge who ruled in her favor. From morning till 5 in the afternoon, all family members abode at the CSC in Hyderabad where they all are provided with non formal education, basic living facilities, food and shelter. Since Fouzia’s joining SPARC, has been trying to link her and her family with private home shelters in the areas surrounding Hyderabad. However, because the family is extremely frightened, they wish for a rental space loft. The is specially because Fouzia’s mother fear that she will be kidnapped again. Fouzia’s mother also filed a petition for the release of her Husband and son. However, she could not afford a lawyer for her case. SPARC then linked her case with a worthy lawyer who is now dealing with the case. Fouzia has also been provided with vocational training on embroidery and stitching at the CSC.
Child marriage is a considered to be a heinous crime in Pakistan but is not treated like it. No case has been filed on Ahmad Rajjar for the allegation of conducting Child Marriage. Petition filed by Fouzia’s mother for her recovery was also under kidnapping and wrongful confinement, but not child marriage. This is perhaps, generally people do not know about the laws and their rights. The CSC team is probing into their legal matters and if need be, will provide legal aid and contact worthy lawyers for the litigation of their cases against Child Marriage for both Fouzia and Sabeen.