A police team conducted a raid in Sindh's Tharparkar district on Saturday, recovering a 14-year-old Hindu girl who had been married off to a 55-year-old man earlier this week.

The police arrested the accused groom and the girl's father, who had allegedly accepted money in exchange for consenting to the marriage, during the raid that was conducted on the orders of Senior Superintendent Police (SSP) Thar Ameer Saud Magsi in Dhaklo village, near the town of Chelhar.

Police officials told Dawn that the minor girl was produced in the court of Judicial Magistrate Abdul Qadir Khoso, who ordered the police to verify the girl's age by sending her to Hyderabad for required medical tests.

The mother of the girl and other relatives had earlier blamed the girl's father for having sold off his daughter to the accused groom for Rs70,000.

A First Information Report (FIR) was registered against four persons on behalf of the state under section 3 (punishment for male contracting party), section 4 (punishment for solemnising a child marriage) and section 5 (punishment for parent or guardian concerned in a child marriage) of Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013.

When contacted, Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) Mohammad Younis Rahimoon of Chelhar police station said that it was discovered during preliminary investigation that two other men had also been involved in the matter and their names had been included in the FIR. One of these two accused suspects managed to flee while police arrested the others, he said.

Rahimoon said that the recovered girl would be handed over to the elders of the area for protection after being produced before the medical board as per court orders.

Zahida Detho, the chairperson of Sindh Rural Partners Organisation (SRPO) which has worked extensively in Thar to combat child marriages, deplored that despite the enactment of Hindu Marriage Act and Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, incidents of child marriages were still on the rise.

Child marriage is a punishable offence in Sindh. According to the Child Marriages Restraint Act, a child marriage includes any marriage where one of the contracting parties is less than 18 years of age.

Those found guilty of entering into, or facilitating, a child marriage can be sentenced to rigorous punishment for up to three years.

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