Custody of a 14-Year-Old Christian in Pakistan Awarded to Her Abductor by High Court

09/29/2021 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – According to Morning Star News, the Lahore High Court in Pakistan refused to return a 14-year-old Christian girl to her family after she was abducted, forcefully converted to Islam, and forcefully married to her abductor. In refusing to return the girl to her family, the judge effectively ruled that the conversion to Islam superseded Pakistan’s laws against child marriage and statutory rape.

On July 27, Chashman Masih failed to return home from school in Faisalabad. In response, Chashman’s father, Gulzar, immediately filed a missing persons complaint with the Samnaabad police.

Days later, police investigating Chashman’s disappearance received images by phone of an Islamic conversion letter, and Islamic wedding certificate, and an affidavit allegedly signed by Chashman claiming she had converted to Islam and married a Muslim man named Muhammad Usman. Police also recovered call records showing the same number that sent the documents regarding Chashman’s conversion and marriage had called Chashman several times on the day she disappeared.

Chashman’s family petitioned local courts in Faisalabad to regain custody of his daughter, however, this petition was dismissed. Chashman’s family appealed that decision to the Lahore High Court, which on September 23 rejected the family’s request to have Chashman returned.

In ruling against Chashman’s family, Justice Tariq Nadeem relied heavily upon Islamic jurisprudence to get around Pakistan’s laws against child marriage and statutory rape. Justice Nadeem stated that Chashman’s conversion to Islam validated her marriage Usman and allowed Usman to retain custody of Chashman.

According to a 2014 study by The Movement for Solidarity and Peace Pakistan, an estimated 1,000 women and girls from Pakistan’s Hindu and Christian community are abducted, forcefully married to their captor, and forcibly converted to Islam every year. The issue of religion is often injected into cases of sexual assault to place religious minority victims at a disadvantage. Playing upon religious biases, perpetrators know they can cover up and justify their crimes by introducing the element of religion.

International Christian Concern recently published a report documented a spike in sexual assaults and forced conversions of Christian women and girls in recent months. According to that report, at least 12 incidents of sexual assault, forced conversion, and forced marriage were documented in the months of July and August.

For interviews, please contact Addison Parker: press@persecution.org.

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