A high court in Pakistan has ruled that men can marry underage girls, under Sharia law, after they have experienced their first menstrual cycle.
Sharia law is the religious law of Islam derived from the teachings of the Quran, which acts as a divine code or guide for living.
The ruling was made by the Sindh High Court on Feb. 3 during the hearing of Huma Younus, a 14-year-old Catholic girl who was abducted, pressured to convert to Islam, and forced into child marriage.
To prove the marriage was invalid and illegal, Younus' parents brought a copy of her baptismal certificate and testimony from her school to the hearing to corroborate her age. Her familly cited the 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 Younus and her abductor, Abdul Jabbar, was legal under Sharia law because she had already experienced her first period.
After the high court’s devastating verdict, Younus' parents and their lawyer Tabassum Yousaf, announced that they will seek justice from Pakistan’s Supreme Court.
“We shall not stop until we get justice,” Yousaf told AsiaNews.
Yousaf also revealed that Younus did not even attend the hearing, making it nearly four months since the family was all together.
Child marriage is a major human rights violation, which causes irreparable harm to young girls all over the world, threatening their health and safety, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Affecting 1 in 5 girls worldwide, child marriage can significantly limit a girl's future or force them into motherhood at an early age, increasing the risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth.
Despite the existence of the Sindh Child Marriage Act, authorities have done little to enforce the law. While a bill to completely ban child marriage in Pakistan has been proposed, it is currently “stuck” in parliament.
"Equality Now urges the Pakistani government, and specifically the Courts, to pay due respect to its international legal commitments and to uphold its own laws by reversing this erroneous decision and ensuring that a fair and correct judicial process is followed from this point onwards,” Equality Now’s Global Lead Flavia Mwangovya told Global Citizen.
“This includes enabling Huma’s parents to see her and ensuring that Huma attends the court hearings,” Mwangovya added.