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Monday, November 28, 2022

Pakistan Court holds marriage with underage Christian girl valid as she’s had her first menstrual cycle

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan continues to abound with rampant human rights abuse meted out to minorities as well as other vulnerable sections of the society like women and children. Abduction and conversion of minor girls from minority communities, generally Hindu and occasionally Christian, is a regular occurence now.

Last year, in the month of December it was reported that Huma Younus, a 14-year-old Christian girl from Karachi was abducted, forcibly converted to Islam and married off to her captor Abdul Jabbar.

Initially, the local law enforcement officials rejected numerous attempts made by the girl’s parents to file a complaint of abduction. However, after their persistence efforts and protests, the police lodged a complaint.

The family of the girl received documents in relation to her conversion and marriage certificate. Her mother, Nagina Younas claimed that the papers are fake, as it takes several hours to reach where she was taken but the date of conversion on the papers was the same as the day of her abduction. She made a request to the Pakistani courts to intervene in the matter.

Tabassum Yousaf who was the lawyer on behalf of the archdiocese of Karachi, was fighting the case of Huma. Yousaf claimed that five appeals made to the courts in Karachi have gone unheard. Subsequently the kidnappers filed an appeal to the High Court, seeking liberation of the girl from her parent’s authority claiming she had attained the age of majority.

A shocking order passed by the the Sindh High Court earlier this month by Judges Muhammad Iqbal Kalhoro and Irshad Ali said that even if the girl, Huma, was found to be underage, the marriage between her and her alleged abductor, Jabbar, would be valid as she has already had her first menstrual cycle.

This order was made when the girl’s parents approached the Sindh High Court to see their daughter and consequently the court in a hearing on February 3, ordered the police to oversee the tests to confirm her age.

Tabbasum Yousaf, who promised to seek justice from the Supreme Court of Pakistan following the horrendous and regressive judgement passed by the Sindh High Court said that the ruling was not in accordance with the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act passed in 2014 which outlawed marriages of girls under 18 years, in a bid to stop forced marriages of minors in the province. Interestingly, all the other provinces in Pakistan follow the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 which defines 16 years as legal age of marriage for girls. But even that law is openly flouted, and child marriages are widely prevalent in the country. In August 2019, the National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice rejected ‘The Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill, 2019’ aimed at fixing minimum age of marriage for girls at 18. Religious parties have opposed any such legislation as anti-Islamic.

Even more shockingly, a bill criminalizing forced religious conversions has been repeatedly stalled in the Sindh Assembly due to opposition by the powerful Islamist lobby – such a bill has not even been debated at national level or in any other province. On October 8, 2019, the Provincial Assembly of Sindh Province rejected the bill, their second attempt at enacting the anti-conversion law in the province after the Provincial Assembly passed a similar bill in December 2016, but on the insistence of the provincial government, the governor did not assent to it.

Yousaf said that the girl’s parents were convinced that the investigating police officer was supporting Abdul Jabbar and his family and have this apprehension that the test results of Huma’s age could be falsified and she might be sent away to live with her abductor ‘husband’.

Source: OpIndia

The parents have requested to keep Huma at a women’s shelter away from her alleged husband until her age was determined. Tabassum said the parents produced documents including church, school documents confirming Huma’s age to be 14.

On the website of the Independent Catholic News, the girl’s mother has appealed to the International community to support them. This incident is attracting international attention, as it rightly should, only because the victim is Christian. Hundreds of Hindu girls are kidnapped, converted and married off to Muslims every year in Sindh and international human rights cabal remains mute. A few cases that come out in the public are covered by alternate media as there is hardly any coverage in the mainstream media.

This incident must be a wake up call to all the Sharia law apologists who say there is no problem if we put the Muslims of Bharat under full Sharia Law – as it is, the Muslim personal law is heavily discriminatory towards Muslim women. If full Sharia is introduced like it exists in Pakistan, it will wreak havoc on the Hindu social order as well as other non-Muslim minorities of Bharat.

Pakistan follows almost the same Penal Code as India but with minor changes here and there which don’t alter the basic concepts criminal law like mens rea and actus reus. A relevant case to cite here is R vs. Prince (1875) where the accused was held guilty for enticing away an unmarried girl Annie Phillips who was aged about 14 years old, without the consent of her father. The accused pleaded that Annie Phillips had herself told him that she was 18 years old and she looked developed enough for a 18 year old. Prince established in the court he bona fide believed Annie to be 18 years old beyond reasonable doubt. Even then, Prince was held guilty for committing a moral wrong.

This shows the priority of the Pakistani legal & judicial systems lies in persecution of non-Islamic populations, and the brazen human rights violations being committed in that country would put any civilized country to shame.

It is for this reason that a humane law like CAA which offers Bharatiya citizenship to persecuted minority refugees from Pakistan and two other Islamic countries offers much needed respite to these long-suffering people.

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