June 7, 2004
To say the least, it is inexplicable that the 13-year-old who was seduced by businessman Reeaz Khan is spending another week without her mother knowing her whereabouts despite the fact that she was released into the joint custody of her mother and aunt. Two Saturdays ago, the girl fled her aunt's home in what was a carefully hatched escape. Where can a 13-year-old girl who has escaped from the safety of her family's home go? It wouldn't take too much application of the grey matter to hazard a guess as to where she has gone and to do the necessary sleuthing to find her.
It is inexplicable that after the mother had initiated habeas corpus proceedings against Khan and the Ministry of Human Services and had succeeded in having the child released into her and her sister's custody with the stipulation that Mr Khan have no further contact with her that no further effort was made by the court at Friday's court hearing to determine whether this stricture had been breached and to publicly require the various authorities to provide some answer on the whereabouts of the 13-year-old.
It is inexplicable that after numerous appeals were made to the police about the escape of the 13-year-old and alleged breaches of the court's order that Mr Khan have no further contact with the girl that the police shamelessly neglected to lift a finger to do what would have been expected under ordinary circumstances - to mount a search for the girl. Perhaps it has not dawned upon the police that from the moment she escaped from the lawful custody of her mother and aunt that they should have assisted the relatives in finding her and pursuing the numerous complaints that the court's stipulation was being flaunted.
Aside from this government's shocking laxity in proceeding to increase the age of consent despite numerous recommendations, it is inexplicable that the Ministry of Human Services which is generally entrusted with overseeing the welfare of children made the feeblest of efforts to rescue the child from the clutches of others and to return her to her mother.
At this stage, the overriding concern should be for the safety and well-being of the girl. All are agreed on that. This objective cannot be achieved by not knowing where she might be holed up today and whose influence she has come under. This should be apparent to the court, the police and the Ministry of Human Services.
This 13-year-old is certainly only one of many girls who have come under the spell of men like Mr Khan. What is fairly unique about this situation is that Bibi Shameeza Hamid, the mother of the girl, has taken the courageous step to resist the efforts of Mr Khan to literally take her daughter away from her. Whatever her own failings in this matter the mother has embarked on a commendable mission to repair relations with her daughter and to give her a chance of a normal upbringing. This is the right and aspiration of parents all over.
The tepid assistance that she has so far secured from those who have been entrusted with the mandate of protecting her daughter demonstrates nakedly how the poorer members of society with few means to challenge the system or to enforce their rights are at the mercy of those more affluent.
It is hoped that those whose responsibility it is to provide support to Ms Hamid can rise to the occasion and reunite her with her daughter and to allow some satisfactory settlement of this matter. Thus far we have all failed Ms Hamid.