The Supreme Court of Pakistan, in a pivotal ruling on Tuesday, August 29th, has called upon the government to respond to a petition aiming to halt the practice of forced conversions and marriages involving minority girls, particularly those acts disguised as child rape cases, according to reliable sources.
This significant legal development unfolded as Justices Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Ayesha Malik acted upon a petition that challenged the Lahore High Court’s decision to send a then 13-year-old Christian girl named Nayab Gill to live with her Muslim “husband” two years ago.
The petitioner, Attorney Saif Ul Malook, filed this case in August 2021, contesting the LHC’s verdict to place Nayab with Saddam Hayat, a 30-year-old individual accused of kidnapping her and coercing her conversion to Islam, despite her parents’ plea for custody.
Mr. Malook noted that the petition had remained pending for two years, during which Nayab managed to escape her abductor’s clutches and reunite with her family. However, the court deemed it necessary to address the core issue at hand despite her return home.
The attorney emphasized that the Supreme Court’s directive for a government response stemmed from his presentation of compelling evidence in Nayab’s case and his questioning of the incongruity between statutory law and Sharia law regarding the minimum marriageable age for girls.
Malook further underscored that courts often dismiss official birth documents and supporting evidence as proof of a victim’s age, instead accepting the victims’ claims of being of legal age and marrying of their own free will.
In Nayab’s specific case, the Lahore High Court had disregarded her official birth documents indicating her age as 13, opting instead to accept her coerced claim that she was 19 years old and had married Hayat, a married father of four, following her conversion to Islam in Gujranwala.
While Pakistani law unequivocally recognizes intercourse with a girl below 16 years of age, with or without consent, as rape punishable by death, the courts have repeatedly contended that underage Muslim girls’ marriages cannot be invalidated, as Islamic law asserts that a consenting girl who has reached puberty can marry.
Malook illuminated the nefarious strategy at play, stating, “The perpetrators forcibly convert their victims to Islam to escape punishments,” and called for a uniform age for marriage across Pakistan, coupled with stringent enforcement of child marriage laws.
According to legal arguments, Nayab was not Sui Juris, meaning she was not of legal age and thus incapable of independent legal actions, at the time of her alleged Islamic marriage with Hayat. This forms the crux of the argument against the marriage’s validity, as individuals who are no longer minors are presumed to be Sui Juris. Consequently, this case marks the Supreme Court’s inaugural involvement in determining the legal age for marriage among minority girls.
The verdict holds immense significance for Pakistan’s religious minority communities, particularly Christians and Hindus, who have long voiced their concerns over the escalating incidents of forced conversions and marriages involving minor girls and their Muslim abductors.
Bishop Azad Marshall, the President of the Church of Pakistan, described the Supreme Court’s decision as a beacon of hope for the protection of these vulnerable young girls. He decried the complicity of police and lower judiciary in facilitating such child marriages and conversions, which often serve as a smokescreen for abductions and child rape.
Marshall’s impassioned plea called upon Christians worldwide to pray for this critical case and the judges presiding over it. Nayab’s parents, Shahid Gill and Samreen, expressed their joy upon learning of the Supreme Court’s intervention and the hope it brings for justice to be served. They have relocated their family to ensure Nayab’s safety, especially in light of Hayat’s release on bail and his relentless pursuit of their daughter.
Despite the challenges and threats they face, the Gills remain resolute in their determination to prevent their daughter from being taken away again. Gill also praised Bishop Azad Marshall for his unwavering support in their quest for justice and the protection of Christian girls.
Tragically, the issue at hand is not an isolated incident. Every year, numerous girls, primarily from the Hindu community in Sindh province and Christians in Punjab province, fall prey to this appalling practice, often orchestrated by influential Muslim leaders and groups. A report by the Center for Social Justice documented at least 124 cases of forced faith conversions in 2022, involving 81 Hindus, 42 Christians, and one Sikh. Shockingly, a significant portion of these victims were under the age of 18, with some below 14, illustrating the severity of the issue…read more
Original News Source: Morning Star News