The parents of a 14-year-old Pakistani Christian girl who was abducted in July and forced into an Islamic marriage are now battling the court system in an attempt to rescue their daughters from her captors.
The U.K.-based charity Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement has been working on behalf of the family, who live in Lahore, after their 14-year-old daughter, Benish Imran, went missing on July 2.
According to a news release sent out by the charity dedicated to helping persecuted Christians in Pakistan, the girl’s father, Imran Masih, registered a case under section 496-A of the Pakistani penal code at the Cantt police station on July 3.
Under Pakistani law, unlawful marriages are punishable by up to seven years in prison. However, the kidnapping and abduction of Christian and Hindu children by Muslim men remains a systemic problem in Pakistan.
At the time, the father didn’t know who had kidnapped his daughter but was later informed by police that a marriage and conversion certificate had been registered for her. He was told that she would appear before a magistrate to record a statement on July 12.
CLAAS lawyer Nasir Anjum attended the July 12 hearing on behalf of Masih. The child also attended the hearing with a Muslim man named Waheed Ahmed. Imran testified that she was 19 years old, which isn’t true. She also reportedly claimed that she embraced Islam and got married to Ahmed on her own free will.
Anjum contested the claim that she was 19, and provided a birth certificate showing the magistrate that Imran was born in October 2005. Anjum argued that a minor cannot legally be married on her own free will.
Additionally, Pakistan’s penal code states that kidnapping occurs when a girl under the age of 16 is taken from a legal guardian without their consent.
The magistrate reportedly ordered CLAAS to register a case at the local police station against the marriage registrar under the Child Marriage Restraint Act. However, the magistrate did not formally write that order.
Although the girl’s statement should have been tossed out by the court because she is underage, the judge recorded her statement.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith