Police in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad have arrested five Omani and three Qatari nationals who had arrived in the city to select minor Indian girls as their brides.
The police have also arrested three Qadis (Muslim judges), including a chief Qadi of Mumbai who allegedly prepared fake certificates for such marriages. The legal age of marriage for Indian girls is 18 years.
Another 35 people have been identified as middlemen who facilitated meetings between Arab Sheikhs and poor Indian families who were ready to get their daughters married off to older foreigners in exchange for a sum of money.
Hyderabad police say they were in the know about the alleged child bride racket but were unable to take stern action due to a lack of cooperation from victims’ families and witnesses who were willing to testify.
However, they found a major lead to an international human trafficking network after it was directed by the External Affairs Ministry to look into a complaint it had received from parents of a minor girl who was married to an Omani Sheikh.
The parents had asked the ministry to rescue the girl who was allegedly thrown into the sex trade by her husband after being taken to Oman. The Indian government is trying to establish a diplomatic channel through which the girl could be brought back to India. India is also seeking the Oman government’s permission to arrest and persecute the husband under Indian laws.