x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Man, 47, arrested for marrying girl, 16

Emirati arrested in India had been told by his bride's family that 'she was 22'.

DUBAI // A 47-year-old man from the UAE has been arrested in India and charged with marrying an underage girl, an official at a UAE consulate in the country said yesterday.

The Emirati from Sharjah was arrested by Hyderabad police on Sunday. He has been charged with marrying a 16-year-old girl.

The legal age for marriage in India is 21 for men and 18 for women.

The consular official in Mumbai said the man had been told by the bride's family that she was 22.

Police in Hyderabad said they arrived at the bride's house on Sunday after a tip-off from the community.

"The marriage had just taken place when we reached the house," said AS Mohammed Ismail, the assistant commissioner of police at Santosh Nagar police station, where the Emirati, the girl's parents and the official who conducted the wedding were being held.

Mr Ismail said that according to the family and her local identity card, she was 22.

"We sent her to the forensics department for an age-determination test on Monday and it has been found that she is 16," he said.

Mr Ismail said the marriage of a minor in India was considered "null and void".

"The girl has been handed to her relatives," he said. "The Emirati will be produced to the concerned court after investigations.

"He paid the family 30,000 rupees [Dh2,300] for the marriage and had borne the wedding expenses."

Mr Ismail added "extreme poverty and illiteracy" had contributed to the situation.

The consular official said the UAE consul general was providing all necessary assistance to the Emirati.

Dr Soad Al Oraimi, a professor specialising in gender development at UAE University's sociology department, said older men going abroad to find a younger bride was very rare in Emirati society.

"The practice was more common in the 1970s when society was very traditional and the level of awareness was low, but today it almost does not exist," Dr Al Oraimi said. "It is no longer common or socially acceptable to find a big age gap between married couples in the UAE."