Activists and lawyers claim ruling will encourage more forced marriages of minors

A court decision in Pakistan to return custody of a 14-year-old Christian girl to the Muslim man who allegedly kidnapped her, forced her to convert to Islam and marry him, will make more Christian girls vulnerable to such trauma, sources said.

Lala Robin Daniel is a rights activist based in Faisalabad who is assisting the family of 14-year-old Maira Shahbaz. She said the Lahore High Court’s refusal to take into account the documented age of the girl and the falsification of documents, including a fake marriage certificate, was unprecedented and would lead to more such cases.

“If the courts of this country start validating underage marriages of girls belonging to the minority communities, it will encourage people from the majority faith to target them with even more impunity,” he said. “A minor child can easily be influenced or coerced into renouncing their faith and marrying someone. This practice needs to be stopped.”

Daniel and the family’s attorney correctly refer to the girl as Maira in court documents, but the court mistakenly called her Maria in its verdict.

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