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Foreign racket: How poor Hyderabad women promised wealth, marriage are sold to pimps

Hyderabad: Trapping young Muslim girls into prostitution under the guise of contract marriages is attaining menacing proportions in Hyderabad. Many girls in abject penury are being ‘sold’ by pimps to foreign nationals for pecuniary gains. Masquerading as ‘marriage’, the practice is effectively pushing them into prostitution.

Contract marriages of poor Indian Muslim girls in the Old City of Hyderabad became a subject of debate once again with the failed bid of a Somali national to marry a 22-year-old girl in exchange of ‘mehr’ a couple of days ago. Mehr is given by the groom to the bride’s family in exchange of the girl.

 Foreign racket: How poor Hyderabad women promised wealth, marriage are sold to pimps

Representational image. AFP

It has come to light that some self-styled quazis organise the nikahnama for the marriage. Nikahnama is a formal binding contract, a customary part of an Islamic marriage. This defines the responsibilities as also the rights of the groom and also the bride and all concerned in such marriage.

They also have the ‘groom’, the foreign national who pays ‘mehr’ to the family of the bride, and the ‘bride’ herself appending their signatures on the nikahnama and also talaqnama, a divorce deed that nullifies the marriage, at the same time. The gullible girls are compelled to sign the talaqnama and are given the impression that those papers are property documents. It would be invoked at an appropriate time.

A big network of middlemen which spreads to several countries, especially those in the Middle-East and Africa, is believed to be active in the racket of fake weddings. Marriage to rich Arab Sheikhs was considered dignified until the late ‘70s and not much foul play was involved then.

However, fraudulent practices crept into this kind of arrangement towards the late ‘80s. The case of a sexagenarian Arab Sheik, Yahya Muhammed Al Sajeesh, ‘marrying’ a 10-year-old Ameena of Old City of Hyderabad became a sensation, when the girl was rescued by Air India airhostess Amrita Ahluwalia and brought back to the city.

Jameela Nishat, a social worker whose NGO, Shaheen Women Resource and Welfare, works for the uplift of Muslim women, tells Firstpost that over the years several restrictions have brought trafficking under the scrutiny of the law. The brokers began finding different methods to continue their businesses. They are making a quick buck in the garb of “short-term, legalised prostitution,” she says.

The “groom”, who walks out of the “so-called marriage” has the talaqnama served on the girl just before or after returning to his homeland. Shaheen Women Resource and Welfare organisation found that there were 33 out of 100 girls in Hafeezbaba Nagar in the Old City who were entrapped in this racket.

Of late, on the initiative of the girls, the police are registering complaints and are arresting those who accepted ‘mehr’. In most cases, it is the family members of the girls who are getting arrested. Nishat insists that the police should actually bring the brokers to book and not the poverty-stricken parents of the girls. The NGO conducted sting operations and rescued seven girls since 2005.

Only a handful of cases see the light of the day as the networks are very strong and the local ‘pahalwans’ (local rowdies) and in some cases even the police are complicit. In most cases, the quazis, nikahnamas and talaqnamas are all fake and fabricated for the express purpose of falsification.

Omer Jaleel, Special Secretary of Minorities Welfare to the Government of Telangana, told Firstpost that if a person’s intent was to “marry for a short-term” it was nothing but perpetrating prostitution. One has to marry for a lifetime. The intention of divorce after a certain period of time is illegal.

There were cases booked against some for accepting ‘mehr’ in Moghulpura police station. There were instances where one victim was subjected to “contract marriages” more than once.

“I have cancelled the license of a quazi within two hours of his appointment on learning his dubious activities,” said the IAS officer. Now that the police are cracking down, the “self-styled” unauthorsied quazis and naib quazis would surely get caught. Of course, that’s no deserving punishment for the fraudsters.

The state government would take serious measures to prevent the unlawful act and save the gullible girls, he said.

In the latest case that surfaced last week, a 29-year-old Somali, Syed Ibrahim, took the help of three brokers in the Old city to marry a 22-year-old girl from a poor family for "a short period." Ibrahim came to Hyderabad a month ago for treatment of his mother at Apollo Hospitals. He came in contact with one Mohammed Wahab of Falaknuma area who “organised” the marriage.

The Deputy Commissioner of Police V Satyanarayana disclosed that the girl’s mother and the brokers agreed to share the Rs 80,000 of ‘mehr’ for getting the girl married for a short term. In this case, it was the quazi, who foiled the bid by alerting the police. The trigger for the girl’s mother to ‘sell out’ her daughter was penury. The girl’s father died a few years ago, and her two brothers aged 11 and 13 lost their ‘jobs’ after the police launched a crackdown on child labourers. The income earned by the mother, who works as a maid, was barely sufficient to run the family.

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Updated Date: Feb 12, 2015 10:23:33 IST