Jul 9, 2008

India - Muslim Cleric annul rape victim's marriage

LUCKNOW: In a chilling reminder of the Imrana case, yet another young woman from Muzaffarnagar who allegedly fell victim to her father-in-law’s sexual assault faces a bleak future after mullahs called for the annulment of her marriage. On July 6, Salma (25), an unlettered mother of two kids, returned to her parental home in Islamnagar, Muzaffarnagar, after she was allegedly raped by her father-in-law over a period of six months. Salma’s father, Raisuddin, filed a criminal complaint with the police under section 376-506 IPC in Ghaziabad, and the accused, Salma's father-in-law Akbar, has been jailed. But in the process her four-year-old marriage to Azad has virtually ended after clerics ruled their reunion as 'haraam'. "A woman who has had a sexual liaison with her husband's father cannot be his consort anymore. A divorce is a must," Mufti Maulana Imran, senior cleric from Darul Uloom Deoband, said on Monday after his view was sought. The prescribed punishment in the case, he maintained, was 'sangsar' or public stoning of the victim and the culprit until death. In 2007, Imrana's case, which was broadly similar with the clerics declaring her marriage null and void after she was raped by her father-in-law, had led to a tsunami of criticism of the mullahs who have been treading cautiously on inter-personal issues ever since. Maulana Khurshid Alam Qazmi, another mufti from Darul Uloom, when contacted by TOI, refused to discuss "a religious edict" on phone. "In any case there are so many fatwas issued from Deoband that it's next to impossible for me to remember any details," he said. But Mufti Imran was more forthright. "Such a relationship as in the particular case is totally immoral and can't be condoned," he told reporters on Monday. "The couple must separate. They are free to marry any other man or woman on a later date but their nikah is void under Islam," he said. The mufti also ruled that "children in this case (Salma has one two-year-old and a four-month-old son) must be looked after by the father who is entitled to their custody". The woman, the mufti clarified, "cannot be exonerated for such a thing cannot happen without her consent." According to Raisuddin's FIR lodged on July 5, Akbar was sexually abusing Salma for the last six months. It says Akbar told her that if she opposed his overtures he would have her father and brother killed. He also used firearms to coerce her. "The husband is under the father's influence and can't protest. Moreover, Akbar has promised him another wife," the FIR says. Salma, who was virtually under house arrest, spoke about her trauma to a visiting aunt and asked her to approach Raisuddin and save her.

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