Dua Zehra is a household name these days. A young girl, came into the limelight when a case of a missing minor girl was reported in Karachi. The missing or allegedly abducted girl was later found in Punjab where she had gotten married and was apparently living a happy life with her husband. This is where the case unravelled.
Dua happens to be underage and her marriage to her husband is not considered a legal one per law. A girl/boy getting married under the age of 18 years is considered to be illegal. Earlier this year, Justice Babar Sattar of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) declared any marriages under the age of 18 years unlawful even though each province has different legal age for marriage.
The problem, in this case, is that no one is talking about the law here. Dua is being dragged to the hospital every now and then to check her age through medical tests. Her parents come on television, record videos, and say how their daughter has been trapped. Dua, on the other hand, keeps saying that she is happy and is not under any pressure. The court allowed her to decide who to stay with instead of keeping her in a government shelter until everything had been settled, under the law. Legal observers have raised another question including why a medical test, which is not accurate, is allowed when NADRA documents prove that she is a minor. Did the court not trust NADRA records and if not, why? These questions have so far not been answered.
In this case, we have left the main issue, i.e. underage marriage behind and are only catering to the drama that is unfolding: the fact that she sat on a cushion during an interview or that she wore make-up. Why is no one talking about how important it is for parents to talk with their children? Why is no one talking about how this case will impact the minds of children whose television screens keep flashing Dua and her husband, the crying mother, and sister of Dua? Why is no one talking about how traumatic all this is for girls and boys of this age? Why is no one talking about how two children — who are apparently underage — got married after meeting online? Why did the boy’s family agree when the girl was quite obviously a minor? Why is there silence around these issues?
We hope that parents start to have open conversations with their children and create an environment where children can speak openly and a relationship of trust is built between them.