PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A furious eunuch at the centre of a scandal in northwest Pakistan told a court Wednesday that police allegations claiming the teenager married a middle-aged businessman were a "conspiracy".
Kashif, who goes by the name Rani, and 42-year old fertiliser dealer Malik Mohammad Iqbal were remanded in judicial custody for a further two weeks as a court in the city of Peshawar gave police time to build a case.
"It is a conspiracy against us. I had no intention of getting married," the 19-year-old Rani told the court, bound in handcuffs to Iqbal.
Iqbal told the judge: "A man cannot marry another man or a eunuch. The allegation against us is incorrect."
Judge Shaukat Ali Shah remanded the pair for 15 days in Peshawar's central jail. If put on trial and found guilty of an "unnatural sexual offence," the pair could face life behind bars.
Shah released on bail around 40 people, who were arrested as guests at the late night-party -- billed as a birthday bash, but which police say was an "illegal" wedding supper. They included 28 eunuch friends of Rani.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the court on Wednesday to boo Iqbal and Rani as they walked into the building.
Rani wore a colourful embroidered party outfit, with polished nails and a headscarf, while Iqbal wore traditional cotton robes.
"We did not marry and we have no such intention," Rani told AFP, appearing uncomfortable. "It was my birthday and Mr. Iqbal is our fan. We invited him to attend the function.
"But police did not want to see us happy and arrested us on false charges," Rani said.
Iqbal, who owns the building in the working class neighbourhood of Faqir Abad where the function was held, said Rani and other eunuchs are his tenants.
"I went to attend Rani's birthday but police raided the premises and booked me on false charges," he told AFP.
"I have not committed any crime. Why should I feel ashamed?"
He and Rani were initially remanded into police custody on Tuesday.
Local police officer Shaukat Ali insisted it was Iqbal's "Walima" -- a dinner traditionally hosted after a wedding.
"Our investigation showed they married sometime back and the wedding dinner was held on Monday," Ali told AFP.
"We have recovered Rani's bridal dress, make up and some photographs from the house," he said.
Peshawar, a city of 2.5 million and the gateway to Pakistan's lawless tribal belt, has been hard hit by bomb attacks blamed on Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants in recent years.
Pakistan is a deeply conservative Muslim country where sex outside marriage is taboo and homosexuality illegal.
The eunuch community, which includes hermaphrodites, transsexuals, transvestites and homosexuals, is mocked, pitied and shunned by society. They frequently beg on the streets and many end up as prostitutes.
In a move toward granting the country's estimated 500,000 eunuchs rights, Pakistan's top judge has ordered the government to recognise them as a distinct gender -- although how it will be implemented remains to be seen.
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