By Sumera Shafique
Every year, human rights estimate that several hundred minor girls are forcibly married in Pakistan. While this is an issue that affects minor girls from all communities, girls from religious minorities are particularly vulnerable. Several reports also found that the minor girls were also forcibly converted to Islam
Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), found that 162 cases of questionable conversions of minority girls were reported in Pakistan’s media between 2013 and November 2020. CSJ found that more than 54 percent of victims (girls and women) belonged to the Hindu community, while 44 percent were Christians. More than 46 percent of victims were minors, with 33 percent aged 11-15, while only 17 percent of victims were above 18. The age of the girls was not mentioned in more than 37 percent of the cases.
There are also special laws concerning the marriage of minors such as the Child Marriage Restraint Act (CMRA), the Majority Act, 1875 and the Muslim law of personal status and other laws related to certain states or provinces.
Forced marriages are a crime under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). Section 365-B of the PPC penalizes the kidnapping, abducting, or inducing woman for marriage with the imprisonment of life sentence and a fine.
Some minor girls elope with older Muslim men against their family’s wishes and if they belong to different faith traditions such as Hinduism and Islam they first convert or are converted to Islam before the marriage. While, parents claim that the girl is forced to convert and marry, to prove this is difficult. Local police are usually unwilling to act if they believe the girl has eloped.
In its report for the year 2012-13, the Council of Islamic Ideology unambiguously declared that marriage of a child can be contracted at any age and for the girl-bride rukhsati can take place at age nine for consummation, provided she has attained puberty.
In the case of Pumy Muskan in 2019, the Lahore High Court ruled that a 14-year-old girl, whose family claimed she had been forcibly converted by her employers, should be returned to the care of her family.
The court ruled that a 14-year-old did not have legal capacity to change her religion, but her conversion was not invalid since it was a matter of her personal conviction and there was no statutory authority prescribing it as unlawful. In effect the court refused to give effect to the conversion for certain legal purposes while not holding the conversion per se as unlawful.
The court held that, “The question as to whether Pumy Muskan’s conversion is forced or otherwise has lost significance in view of my holding that she lacked the legal capacity to make such decision.”
In Pumy’s case she was not married.
Where a minor girl is married along with the conversion, courts have been reluctant to restore her to her parent’s custody.
In July 2021, the Lahore High Court has upheld a ruling in Pakistan granting custody of a 13-year Christian girl, Nayab Gill, to a Muslim accused of kidnapping her, forcibly marrying her, and converting her to Islam. Justice Shahram Sarwar Chaudhry rejected the girl’s official birth documents showing she was 13. The court instead accepted her claim, considered to be made under severe threats of harm to her and her family, that she was 19 years old and married 30-year-old Saddam Hayat, a married father of four children, after converting to Islam of her own free will in Gujranwala on May 20.
In April 2021, A 40-year-old Muslim man allegedly abducted a 14-year-old Hindu girl in Chundiko in Sindh and married her forcibly. The abductor, Mohammad Aachar Darejo, got himself photographed with the minor girl. The picture also showed him and the girl displaying an alleged ‘nikah-nama.’ She was also converted to Islam.
Pakistan has signed and ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Article 16 (2) of the CEDAW expressly prohibiting child marriage stating that “The betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage and to make the registration of marriages in an official registry compulsory” 
Furthermore, under Article 16 it says that member countries to the convention must protect their citizen’s rights to choose a spouse and enter the contract of marriage with their full consent.
In marriage with a minor, there is no clear consent as the minor girl is incapable of giving their free consent due to lack of their maturity
Pakistan has also ratified the Child Rights Convention (CRC) and while the CRC does not directly address the issue of child marriage, it defines a child under Article 1 as “a child means every human being below the age of 18 years unless, under the law applicable to the child, the majority is attained earlier”. Article 14 (1) of the CRC also states that state parties need to respect the right of children to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.
 Section 365-B of the PPC states that : Kidnapping, abducting or inducing woman to compel for marriage, etc.: whoever kidnaps or abducts any woman with intent that she may be compelled, or knowing it to be likely that she will be compelled, to marry any person against her will, or in order that she may be forced or seduced to illicit intercourse, or knowing it to be likely that she will be forced or seduced to illicit intercourse, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine, and whoever by means of criminal intimidation as defined in this Code or of abuse of authority or any other method of compulsion, induces any woman to go from any place with intent that she may be or knowing that it is likely that she will be forced or seduced to illicit intercourse with another person shall also be punishable as aforesaid.
 https://www.christianheadlines.com/blog/high-court-in-pakistan-upholds-girls-forced-marriage-conversion.html and https://www.indiatoday.in/world/story/13-year-old-hindu-girl-forcibly-converted-and-married-to-abductor-in-pakistan-s-sindh-1777947-2021-03-11
 (Article 16 (2), Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination
Sumera Shafique is a senior lawyer at Get Justice Law Firm in Pakistan, practicing in constitutional law and human rights with a special emphasis on minority rights and religious freedom in Pakistan. She is member of the National Lobbying Delegation for Minority Rights. She works to secure justice for Christian girls who are victimized by rape, kidnap and forced marriages. Ms. Sumera speaks across the country on the rights of religious minorities in Pakistan. In addition, she served Chairperson Minorities Rights committee high court Bar association and General secretary and vice president Christian Lawyers association in Pakistan.