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Wednesday, May 18, 2022
HomeOpinionIn the age of elopements

In the age of elopements

"Now, children have all the facilities and exposure that the previous generation did not. Adolescents have more courage and fortitude to take any risk than the average person"

Our school-day textbooks had lots of stories of tragic romances from Heer Ranjha to Romeo and Juliet. These heartbreaking stories were made into everlasting romances by poets like Waris Shah and legendary playwright Shakespeare.

Now, we have the Dua Zehra-Zaheer Ahmed case, which is being documented by the mainstream media and social media.

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Such cases elicit different reactions; some celebrate it as the emancipation of women, while the other side sees it as a breach of traditional social settings.

First, let us have a look at the Dua Zahra case.

The girl who reportedly went missing from her Karachi home around two weeks ago was produced before a court in Lahore on Tuesday, where the court rejected a plea by the police to send the girl to Dar-ul-Aman. She is free to go wherever she wants.

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She was found living in an Okara hamlet. As soon as the media screens flashed Dua Zahra’s reported marriage certificate, her parents said that they wanted to see their daughter.

A video is doing the rounds wherein the apparently ‘underage’ girl is seen saying she has married Zaheer of her own free will. In another statement, she said that her family members wanted to force her to marry someone else and would beat her often. She left her parents of her own free will and no one kidnapped her, nor did she bring any valuables from her home.

“What’s more valuable than a daughter in a home?” wrote social media activist Hansain Jamal in a tweet. That’s so touching.

What makes Dua Zehra’s case so complex?

It’s her age.

After the videos surfaced and Dua Zehra was shifted to Lahore from Okara, her father Syed Mehdi Kazmi told a press conference along with his wife Saima Kazmi that their daughter had given the statements under duress. He showed reporters the birth certificate and the purported marriage certificate of Dua Zehra, saying Dua Zahra will be 14 years old on April 27.

He said that if they got married on May 7, 2005, then how could their daughter be 18 years old? Mehdi Kazmi alleged that his daughter had been abducted.

As such cases divide our society, Bakhtawar Bhutto-Zardari has stepped forward to Mehdi Kazmi’s support, saying that taking away a minor girl is kidnapping.

She tweeted: “This is not legal as she is underage (14) so obviously coerced and manipulated. There is zero consent at 14 and it is revolting to see so many people blame a child. The man should be charged with kidnapping & the maulvi should be arrested for signing off on child marriage.”

A moderate way has been suggested by Minute Mirror’s writer Rubab Zehra in her piece titled ‘Lessons taken away from Dua Zehra case’.

She suggested, “There should be a proper law that no marriage in court can be conducted without informing the parents.”

“Even if they disagree, it is still their right to know that their child is getting married. No nikah form should be registered or legally recognized until it is assured that both families know about the marriage. Any registrar who conducts such marriages without informing the parents should be arrested as well. Forced marriage is a curse, so is the uninformed marriage where teens get married without even informing their parents.”

Law will take its own logical course. Now is the time for social scientists to examine such cases.

They should see what forced Dua Zehra to elope with a boy she met on a social media site.

Where have parents erred in the upbringing of the children? Now, children have all the facilities and exposure that the previous generation did not. Adolescents have more courage and fortitude to take any risk than the average person.

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