A top court in Pakistan’s Sindh province today allowed a Hindu teen to live with her Muslim husband, days after her family alleged that she was abducted, forcibly converted and married off. A single-judge bench of the Sindh High Court’s Hyderabad circuit allowed Gulnaz Shah — formerly known as Ravita Meghwar — to live with her husband. The Hindu community along with the girl’s family had reported to the police that Gulnaz Shah, 16, had been kidnapped and forced to undergo a religious conversion. According to Advocate Ali Palh, the counsel for the intervener in the case, Justice Panhwar heard Gulnaz Shah, who had converted to Islam from Hinduism and married Nawaz Ali Shah in Samaro this month, in his chamber before passing the judgement.
Justice Panhwar had heard Gulnaz, her father Satram Meghwar’s counsels and Palh in an open court before adjourning the matter briefly, the Dawn newspaper reported. Gulnaz Shah had a day earlier been sent to the Darul Aman shelter by the court after Palh insisted that she be kept in some state institution before the recording of her statement. Palh had contended that though the Child Marriage Restraint Act is silent over nullity/validity of marriage or otherwise in case an underage girl is married by her parents, a previous case heard by a division bench of the SHC headed by Justice Sajjad Ali Shah had sent a minor, Anjali, to a shelter on the grounds that she was underage.
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Palh said that the bench had held that the law would be frustrated if the minor was allowed to go with her husband. He had also stated that the primary school certificate submitted before the court proves that she was less than 18 years of age and thus could not be married. Zahoor A Baloch, the lawyer representing the couple, argued that the girl had attained the age of puberty and as per Islamic law, a girl who is either 16 years of age or has reached puberty, is an adult. Bhagwandas Bheel, the counsel for Meghwar, argued that the girl was under the influence of her husband.
Gulnaz, however, had told the judge yesterday that she had embraced Islam of her own free will and consent, the report said.