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Court of Protection grants British Sikh woman’s wish not to annul legally invalid marriage

A judge has a granted a British Sikh woman’s wish to remain married to her mentally disabled husband.

The unnamed woman told the Court of Protection that the arranged marriage had ruined her chances of a happy life, the Telegraph reports. Nevertheless, if the marriage was annulled, she would face lifelong ostracism by the Sikh community, she insisted. It would be “culturally impossible”, she said, for her to form a new relationship.

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council  has asked the Court to rule on the couple’s marriage.

Mr Justice Holman declared that it was important “to send a  strong signal to the Muslim and Sikh communities…that arranged marriages, where one party is mentally incapacitated, simply will not be tolerated, and that the marriages will be annulled.”

Nevertheless, in this case, he would honour the woman’s desire to remain married, saying “Her position is a tragic one, which she bears with fortitude and dignity.”

It is believed to the first time a judge has ruled that a marriage which was never legally valid can continue.

The judge noted that her husband, who is severely disabled and therefore could not consent to marriage, clearly enjoyed his wife’s regular visits, and he said there were no benefits to either partner in ending the union.

Nevertheless, the judge added, the woman would never be able to live with her husband and would face prosecution for a serious criminal offence if she ever attempted to consummate their relationship because the man could not legally consent to a sexual relationship.

He said:

“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.”

The judge added:

“Whilst marital sex and cohabitation are, of course, normal incidents of a normal marriage between people of normal capacity, neither is essential to a marriage.”

The couple originally married during a visit to Punjab in 2009, the court heard. The wife is younger than her husband and unable to walk normally. Mr Justice Holman said the couple were people who might who “might otherwise have found it hard to marry”.

She agreed to the marriage as an “obedient daughter”. She did not meet her future husband before the ceremony and only realized he was not “normal” after the wedding.

The wife works a fruit picker and he husband lives in a council home in the West Midlands.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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