Pakistani ruling allows underage girls to be married

Today Forbes reports that the High Court of Sindh in Karachi, Pakistan, passed a Sharia-based law allowing a girl to marry after she has experienced her first menstrual cycle. The case involved the alleged abduction, forced conversion to Islam, marriage and ongoing rape and sexual assault of a 14-year-old Catholic girl, Huma Younus. 

Huma’s parents allege that Abdul Jabbar of Dera Ghazi Khan, Punjab Province, along with two accomplices, waited outside the Younus home in Karachi until Huma was in the house alone. The three men then abducted her and her parents state that she was forced to marry Jabbar.

A text stating that Huma had converted to Islam and married Jabbar “of her free will” was cited by her parents. Even if Huma did agree, Islamic marriage contract requirements do not appear to be met: (1) a clear proposal, (2) clear acceptance or consent (although silence is just as acceptable), (3) at least two competent witnesses and (4) a marriage gift from the bridegroom to the bride. [Emphasis added]

The family filed suit based upon the 2013 Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, which prohibits the marriage of any child under the age of 18. The judges, however, ruled that the marriage between Huma and Jabbar was legal under Sharia law because she had already experienced her first period.

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.”

A bill to completely ban child marriage remains stuck in Pakistan’s parliament, and according to UNICEF 21% of Pakistani girls are married by age 18. Child marriage affects 1 in 5 girls worldwide.

Yousaf said that Huma’s parents will take the case to Pakistan’s Supreme Court to seek justice. Huma did not attend the hearing and her family has not seen her since the October 2019 abduction.

Sources: Forbes, Global Citizen, UN News, Christian Headlines

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