Girl pleads with court to save her from forced marriage

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Marriage is a beautiful voyage, so it is said. Even then, it has to be with the right person and at the time and age.

For a teenager, identified in court papers as AAS, her mother is trying to deny an opportunity to be a child and marry when she wants.

The mention of the word marriage to AAS evokes emotions of betrayal, pain and anguish.

The minor has now rushed to court seeking its intervention as she seeks to block her parent, HA, from pushing her into a 'prison' by marrying her off.

The court heard that HA wants to marry off the child to an old man.

The applicant said that other than being a child, she does not have any single spark of love for the suitor her mother has picked for her.

The girl, in a historic case exclusively seen by The Standard, wants the court to affirm her right to marry when she wants and to whoever her heart desires.

She is seeking orders to block her parent from forcibly marrying her off.

AAS said she learned, from their house help, that she was a booked bride.

To escape from her parent's plan, the girl packed her belongings and took off. Her plan was almost aborted after her stepfather and their neighbours pursued her.

After the escape, the girl said she tried to reach out to different people for help but to no avail. She finally got help from two human rights organizations.

AAS claims her mother has hired a group of men to monitor her movements.

"However, the spies' plans failed. That is when my mother went to the police and reported me as a missing person," AAS told the court.

She said the police showed up at her place of refuge, on January 18, 2023, and took her to their station. The officers later handed AAS back to her mother. According to her, this was without her consent.

It took the intervention of a lobby group to free her from the planned early marriage, she said.

AAS, in her case before High Court judge Chacha Mwita, claims her mother then booked her as a mentally ill person at a local rehabilitation centre. She argues that her parent managed to get her way by giving false information about her.

According to the girl, the idea of keeping her in rehab was to block her from escaping.

"The petitioner has been under physical assault and abuse by the respondent who has ill motives and a selfish desire of marrying the petitioner off contrary to the choice of the petitioner," Justice Mwita heard from AAS's lawyers.

The facility, where the minor had sought refuge, was however shut down over alleged bizarre religious healing activities. The 'patients' at the centre were locked in chains in dingy dark rooms without ventilation and were reportedly beaten.

Some of those who were at the centre were not abusing drugs but relatives paid to keep them there.

AAS was later handed to a human rights group.

She however fears that the same men hired to spy on her are still pursuing her despite being in a safe house.

"The applicant is living in fear and mental anguish because several men are consistently following her with the intention of abducting her. The goal is to marry her off as per the selfish wishes of the respondent," AAS's court papers read in part.

In her case, AAS wants the court to block her mother and her agents from interfering with her life or intimidating her in order for her to marry a person she does not love.

At the same time, she is seeking orders to block the hired men from pursuing her or getting instructions from her parent regarding her life.

Meanwhile, AAS is seeking compensation for alleged torture.

The case will be mentioned on October 23, 2023.