A few days ago, the mother of a teenage girl from Hyderabad complained that her daughter had been married off to a 65-year-old Oman national for a sum of Rs 5,00,000. The mother had contacted the police allegedly after the child bride called her from Muscat asking for her help.
As the police continue their search for the qazi who performed the ceremony, mosques in Hyderabad have joined the campaign to stop child marriage. These mosques plan on reducing the ever-growing contract marriages — when a girl is forced into marriage in exchange for money — by making announcements a few times a day to spread awareness. Talking about the issue with PTI, Hyderabad's district child protection officer Imtyaz Rahim said,
“A change is visible…but in certain pockets of the old city, such marriages are still reported because the mediators/brokers lure poor families into performing such marriages by conniving with qazis (those who preside over the wedding) after offering money (taken from the elderly grooms) to the bride’s family.”
Contract marriages are almost impossible to trace, as in most cases the children leave the country and the trail gets cold. What usually happens is that the girls are taken to other countries under the pretext of work, where they are trapped into marrying older men whom they can't escape. What makes it even more problematic is that most often, it is close relatives who sell the girls. According to Reuters, Imtiyaz said,
"In the past, we have got licences of qazis cancelled for performing such weddings. We are now asking them to mandatorily check the bride's age proof. We are also asking mosques to include messages against such marriages in their sermons."
Currently, government agencies are trying to bring the 16-year-old girl back to India.