A medical board formed to determine the age of Dua Zehra — the girl who was reported missing from Karachi on April 16 and later recovered from Punjab on June 5 — concluded on Monday that she was between 15 to 16 years of age.
The report, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, was submitted to the court of judicial magistrate (East) in Karachi.
It stated that the medical board conducted X-rays of both her hands, elbows and wrists, her pelvis and the sternal ends of her clavicle. An OPG (orthopantomagram) X-ray as well as one of her lower mandible pre-molar teeth were also conducted.
"Aforesaid X-rays were exposed at the Radiology Department, Services Hospital, Karachi and OPG was exposed at Dow Dental College, Karachi on July 2, 2022. Dental cast was also prepared," the report said.
On the basis of physical examination, Dua's age was between 14-15 years. On the basis of dentition, Dua's age was between 13-15 years, the report said. On the basis of epiphyseal closure assessed on radiological examination, Dua's age was between 16-17 years, it added, calling this an "unusual discrepancy".
The team concluded that consensus opinion was that Dua's overall age was between 15-16 years, nearer to 15 based on physical examination and dentition.
Talking to the media outside the court, the lawyer for Dua's father — Jibran Nasir — confirmed that the medical report had declared the teenager's age to be closer to 15 years.
"So, the girl's statements, in which was forced to say she was 18 years of age, and the medical report which claimed she was 17 have been proven wrong," he said. Earlier, a medical test ordered by the Sindh High Court (SHC) had determined that Dua was 17-years-old.
"Today's medical report supports the stance of Dua's parents," Nasir pointed out. "And therefore, this case falls under kidnapping.
"The law also states that contracting a marriage while under the age of 16 is a crime, and any physical contact with a child under 16 is classified as a sexual offence," he added.
On April 16, Dua's parents filed a first information report alleging that their daughter had been kidnapped when she left the house to dispose of some trash. The incident had provoked an outcry, especially on social media, which had prompted authorities to take notice.
After nearly 10 days, on April 26, the teenage girl was recovered from Okara. In a video statement that day, Dua had said that she wasn't kidnapped and had married Zaheer of her "free will".
She had said that she had left her house of her own accord. "I have married out of free will. No one forced me. I'm happy with my husband here. For God's sake, don't bother me," she had stated.
Dua had also claimed that her parents were lying about her age.
Subsequently, she and Zaheer approached a Lahore district and sessions court and filed a petition against Dua's father and cousin.
Meanwhile, the police had also filed a plea in court demanding that Dua be sent to Darul Aman. However, the magistrate rejected the request and allowed the teenager "to go wherever she wanted to".
On the other hand, Dua's parents were adamant that their daughter had been kidnapped and said that she had been forced to give the statement.
The teenager's father had also approached the SHC in May with a plea against the Punjab court's orders. Kazmi had stated in the petition that as per her educational, birth certificates and other records, Dua's age was 13 and under the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013 it was illegal to marry a minor.
He had asked the court to order a medical examination of his daughter. In the following days, Karachi police repeatedly failed to produce the teenager in court earning the judges' ire.
On June 6, the SHC had ordered an ossification to determine Dua's age. She was also sent to a shelter home for the time being after she refused to meet her parents.
Two days later, the court ruled that the teenager was at liberty to decide who she wanted to live with. During the hearing, the IO filed his report along with an age certificate issued by the office of the police surgeon which stated that as per the opinion of doctors and the Civil Hospital’s department of radiology, the bone age of the alleged abductee was between 16 and 17 years of age.
In its order, the bench said the petition had served its purpose as it was only to the extent of the whereabouts of the alleged minor/abductee.
Later, Kazmi challenged the verdict in the SC, which had in turn asked him approach the relevant forums for the constitution of a medical board. Subsequently, a judicial magistrate in Karachi had ordered the constitution of another board to determine Dua's age.