06/17/2005, 00.00
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Muslims split over case of a woman forced to marry her rapist

Local Muslim Council orders woman raped by her father-in-law to marry him, but the All India Muslim Personal Law Board says that the decision is unjust under Sharia law.

Chatarwal (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Muslim Council in Chatarwal, a city in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, ordered a 28-year-old woman to marry her father-in-law. Two weeks ago, the Muslim mother of five was at home alone when her father-in-law paid her a visit, then raped her.

Instead of going to the police to press charges, she waited for her husband's return. Once told of the fact, the 32-year-old man repudiated his wife using the triple talaq, an Islamic procedure whereby a husband can immediately and unilaterally divorce his wife by saying to her, three times, Talaq ("I divorce you"). A wife cannot under any circumstances refuse it.

About four days later, the village elders and Muslim religious leaders were informed of the event and declared the procedure legitimate and ordered the woman to marry her father-in-law. They also ordered her to leave her home and go back to her own family for seven month and 10 days to become "pure" in preparation of her new wedding.

The victim's own family accepted the decision and her brothers said that the Council's decision "was in line with Islamic Law".

Numerous Indian associations came out against the decision and the use of the triple talaq. The National Commission of Women (NCW) asked for a report from the government of Uttar Pradesh, one of India's more populous states (165 million). It also announced that it would provide the woman with legal assistance so that "she would not have to accept this decision by religious leaders, a decision without any legal merit".

"We have requested the government to take action against the guilty and also pay compensation to the victim," NCW president Girija Vyas said.

Some Islamic groups have also condemned the sentence. "Under the Sharia law, whatever happened with the victim is wrong and if her father-in-law has raped her, he should be sentenced to death. She is innocent," said Zafarab Geelani, a representative for the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

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