A 25 year-old autistic man who married in Pakistan did not have the mental capacity to do so, the High Court has ruled.
The man, ‘RS’, married in a Muslim ceremony and celebrated with around 500 guests. His family spent around £25,000 on the wedding which was described as “very bling”. The imam who performed the ceremony asked RS if he knew why he was there and if he was “agreeable to get married”.
Luton Borough Council raised concerns that, because of his autism, RS was unable to make an informed decision about his marriage or sex. A psychiatrist who spoke to RS backed up the local authority’s concerns. He said that the man struggled with abstract concepts and did not have “an effective way to signal his difficulty or distress”.
Although RS “understood the mechanics of the sexual act”, the psychiatrist believed he did not have the capacity to properly consent to sex. Additionally, he reported that RS had “no significant grasp of the role of husband and wife or the duties of either”.
Sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Mr Justice Hayden had “little difficulty” ruling that RS did not have “the capacity to marry”.
However, he was convinced that the family – who organised the wedding – were acting on the belief that marriage would “provide RS with care and security for the remainder of his life”.
The judge added that the wife had demonstrated no signs that she had married RS “under duress or in consequence of any abusive pressure”. While giving evidence over the phone from Pakistan, she “confirmed with some robustness, that the marriage had been consummated” and that RS had treated her with “sensitivity and forbearance”.
Re RS (Forced Marriage Protection Order) is available online. To read it in full, click here.
Photo of a Pakistani wedding ceremony by AamerJaved via Flickr