In yet another case where conversion of a minor was condoned, the Court of Lahore accepted at face value the age on the marriage certificate.
by Daniela Bovolenta
Bitter Winter has previously discussed cases where minor girls from religious minorities are converted to Islam and married to Muslims. Then, they and their new husbands appear in court, declare that the girl is in fact 18 or 19, and this claim is accepted by the judges based on the witness evidence, without further check.
A new case has been examined by the Court of Lahore last week. It concerns Chashman Kanwal, who was 13 in the summer and is turning 14 according to her family. Her father, Gulzar Masih, is a poor Christian rickshaw driver. In July, he went to the police claiming that Chashman was abducted after he dropped her in front of her school, Government Secondary High School Samanabad, in Faisalabad.
Later, he received a video showing his daughter’s conversion to Islam and marriage to one Muhammad Usman, accompanied by a letter coming from Pakistan Sunni Tehreek, a conservative Islamic group affiliated with the Barelvi movement.
Chashman now goes under the name of Ayesha Bibi, and her marriage certificate claims she is 19. Her father filed school documents and a birth certificate confirming she was 13 at the time of the abduction. However, on September 24 the Court of Lahore validated her marriage and conversion, claiming that her and her husband’s statements that she is 19 prevail upon other evidence.
As Bitter Winter has commented previously, not all these cases are simple abductions. There are Romeo-and-Juliet situations where Christian or Hindu girls do fall in love with Muslim men. It is often impossible to ascertain whether minor girls from religious minorities are coerced or marry Muslim men voluntarily.
However, the laws that prevent religious conversions of young minors and marriage before 16 are intended to protect Punjab’s vulnerable girls, if necessary, even against themselves, in situations where the rights of those belonging to religious minorities are at risk daily.