Forced marriage involving underage boy wrongly reported as new incident

The story of a 21-year-old girl being forced to wed a 10-year-old boy to protect family assets dates back to 2017

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Claim: A 21-year-old girl was forced to marry a 10-year-old boy, causing many Pakistanis to react with fury.

Fact: The alleged incident occurred in 2017 and is not recent.

On 25 October 2021, Urdu-language Pakistani newspaper Daily Ausaf published a news story with the following headline:

“10سالہ نوعمر لڑکا اور 21سالہ جوان لڑکی۔۔۔پاکستان کے بڑے شہرسے ایسی شرمناک خبر آگئی کہ سن کر ہر پاکستانی آگ بگولہ ہو گیا”
[10-year-old boy and 21-year-old girl. Such a shameful news came from a big city of Pakistan that every Pakistani became a whirlwind of fire]

The news story, which was run with a sensational and clickbait headline, describes how a young girl from the Bhangsika village of Pindi Bhattian in Pakistan’s Punjab province was allegedly forced to marry her 10-year-old cousin. According to the report, the reason behind the “ill-matched and unnatural” wedding was to ensure the family’s assets would be preserved and not shared with outsiders.

A private TV channel was quoted as the source of the news story, which also noted that such instances of “ignorance” occur due to lack of education.

Soch Fact Check ran a CrowdTangle analysis, which revealed that almost a dozen pages shared the news story between 25 and 26 October 2021. Interestingly, verified Facebook page Daily Ausaf appears to have locked and/or removed the story but the piece still remains on the page’s affiliated website, as do the reports posted by other Facebook pages, such as Daily Ausaf Pothohar, Daily Ausaf Kashmir, NS News, News Capital, and G News Network.

Entering the search term “pindi bhattian 21 year old mehwish 10 year old allah ditta” on Google turns up a story from December 2017.

That story was carried by multiple media outlets at the time, including The Express Tribune, Daily Times, Khaleej Times, and Al Arabiya English, among others. The Tribune had sourced its 2017 story from its TV channel, Express News.

Soch Fact Check found that the 17 December 2017 story has been rehashed in the recent reports and made to seem like a fresh incident that took place in October 2021.

Conclusion: The alleged incident occurred in 2017 when multiple major media outlets covered it. The reports from October 2021 are misleading as they characterise the incident as a new occurrence.

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