LONDON: In what is believed to be the first ruling of its kind in the UK, an Indian woman who had an arranged marriage with a mentally disabled British Sikh man has been warned that she faces life in prison if she were to sleep with her husband.
Justice Holman, sitting at the court of protection in Birmingham on Tuesday, said the woman’s husband lacked the capacity to consent to a sexual relationship. “The fact that they are married to each other would be no defence. If she were to have any form of sexual intimacy with him, he would be the victim of a criminal act,” he said in his ruling.
The woman had pleaded with the court not to annul her marriage to the man who is being cared for at a local authority home in the West Midlands.
Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council had asked the court to declare the marriage not recognized in England and Wales because the man lacked capacity to consent to the marriage. However, the judge gave in to the woman’s request and declined to annul the marriage.
It is believed to be the first time that a British judge has allowed a marriage to continue despite finding that by law it never existed.
“Her position is a tragic one, which she bears with fortitude and dignity…” the judge said.
In 2009, the husband, now in his late 30s, was taken to Punjab by his parents. The woman did not meet her husband before their wedding day and realized that “he was not like a normal person” only after the ceremony. She said they had slept together on their wedding night and on a few occasions since.
“I have been told that within the area… there are a number of incapacitated adults who have been the subject of arranged or forced marriages, and that it is important to send a strong signal to the Muslim and Sikh communities within this area … that arranged marriages, where one party is mentally incapacitated… will not be tolerated, and that the marriages will be annulled,” the judge stressed.