A high court ruling in Pakistan validating the marriage and forced conversion to Islam of a 14-year-old Christian girl has heightened fears that it will encourage others to commit such crimes, sources said.
The High Court in Sindh Province on February 3 dismissed a petition to have the marriage and forced conversion of a Catholic girl overturned. The court ruled that both were valid since a girl under sharia (Islamic law) can marry after her first menstrual cycle.
Huma Younus was taken from her home in Karachi’s Zia Colony on October 10 while her parents were away. She was forced to marry the man who abducted her, identified as Abdul Jabbar of Dera Ghazi Khan, Punjab Province, her attorney said.
“The hearing on February 3 lasted only five minutes,” the family’s attorney, Tabassum Yousaf, told Morning Star News. “The court, in just a few words citing the sharia, has justified the violation of the girl’s body since she has already had her first period.”
Yousaf added that the family was prohibited from seeing Huma because police said her life would be at risk if she was brought to the courtroom.
He said the family challenged Huma’s marriage and forced conversion under the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013, which declares marrying a person under 18 years old an offence punishable by up to three years in prison.
Although the Sindh government takes credit for becoming Pakistan’s first elected assembly to pass a bill on child marriage in April 2014, the law is still poorly implemented, sources said.
Yousaf said he submitted Huma’s baptismal and school documents in court that proved she was 14 years old. Nevertheless, Sindh High Court judges Muhammad Iqbal Kalhoro and Irshad Ali Shah ruled that the marriage was valid based on her menstrual cycle.
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