On Monday, 3 February, the Sindh High Court in Karachi ruled that men in Pakistan can marry underage girls. This ruling, which the two-member bench based on their interpretation of Sharia law, flies directly in the face of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act which forbids marriage below the age of 18.
The ruling was made during the latest court hearing into the kidnapping, forced conversion and marriage of Huma Younus, a 14-year-old Christian girl.
According to local reports, Huma was kidnapped by Abdul Jabbar from her family’s home on 10 October. Following the kidnapping, Huma’s parents were informed via text message that their daughter had converted to Islam and had married Jabbar.
In an effort to rescue their daughter, the family argued that the marriage to Jabbar was invalid under the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act. The Christian couple supplied the court with baptismal and school documents proving Huma is 14 years old.
However, at the hearing on 3 February, judges Muhammad Iqbal Kalhoro and Irshad Ali Shah ruled that the marriage between Huma and Jabbar is valid because she has already had her first menstrual cycle.
“Once again, justice has been defeated and, once again, our state has shown itself unable to treat Christians as Pakistani citizens,” Nagheena Younus, Huma’s mother said.
The issue of kidnapping, forced conversion, and forced marriage is one of the major issues affecting Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan. According to a 2014 study by the Movement for Solidarity and Peace Pakistan, as many as 1,000 Christian and Hindu women and girls are targeted every year in Pakistan.
Sources: International Christian Concern, Aid to the Church in Need
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