The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Spectre of divorce stares at girl of 8
- Wedding 39 days after birth

Mirzapur (Murshidabad), Aug. 22: All of eight-years-old, Khadeja Bibi does not really understand that her “husband”, whom she had been married to at the age of 39 days, wants to “divorce” her.

When Munirul Mir was married to Khadeja, he was a 12-year-old boy. Now, Mir wants to marry an adult.

Khadeja’s marriage to her cousin was one of convenience. Her father, Israphil Mir, said: “The marriage was held according to our religion and we went ahead with it after my eldest brother passed away. My daughter was wedded to my brother’s son to strengthen our family bond.”

Israphil said he did not know whether or not the wedding was illegal. “We took consent of all the village elders and relatives, who were present during the ritual,” he said.

The father knows that his son-in-law wants to marry a woman of like age. “If he has made up his mind to do so, we have no option but to annul the marriage. After all, my daughter is still a child and I do not want anything to taint her,” Israphil said.

All of eight-years-old, Khadeja is waiting eagerly to celebrate the wedding of her “husband”. “Munirulbhai and Phulbanu (his sister) are getting married soon and I want to have a lot of fun,” she said.

Munirul’s widowed mother wants to have a joint wedding for her son and daughter Phulbanu. “My daughter’s wedding has been finalised. We are now looking for a suitable bride for Munirul. I want them to get married at the same time after the rainy season is over,” said Seharbanu Bewa.

“Eight years ago, when I lost my husband, my brother-in-law Israphil got his daughter married to my son, for the sake of closer family ties. Now, things are going the opposite direction. My son blames me for getting him married to the child. I have decided to go through with the divorce so that my son can marry an adult,” Seharbanu said.

Khadeja’s parents should marry her off elsewhere when she grows up, said Seharbanu.

With the child marriage out in the open, Khadeja’s parents have heard police knocking on their door. “I told the police that we did not know that we were doing something wrong and I will do everything to protect her,” said Israphil.

The district intelligence branch has sent a report to the Murshidabad administration. The report has pointed out that there was no foul intention behind the marriage. It also says that the girl’s father is ready to carry out a ritual to terminate the marriage and get his child married off when she comes of age.

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