A Pakistan court has ruled that men can marry underage girls as long as they have had their first period.
The ruling was made by the Sindh High Court in Karachi on Monday during a hearing into the alleged abduction, forced conversion and marriage of Huma Younus to Abdul Jabbar.
The Catholic teen was taken from her home on 10 October 2019. Her parents say that she was born on 22 May 2005 and have provided a baptismal certificate and school testimony as evidence that she is 14, Aid to the Church in Need reports.
They argue that the marriage is invalid under the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, which forbids marriage below the age of 18.
At the hearing, judges Muhammad Iqbal Kalhoro and Irshad Ali Shah ruled that under Sharia law, the marriage between Younus and Jabbar stands because she has already had her first menstrual cycle.
Her mother, Nagheena Younus, told ACN of her frustration at the ruling.
"Once again, justice has been defeated and, once again, our state has shown itself unable to treat Christians as Pakistani citizens," she said.
Her lawyer, Tabassum Yousaf, suggested that the passing of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act in 2014 was merely a front to preserve Pakistan's trade relations with European countries.
"We hope that the law could have been applied for the first time in this case," she said.
"But evidently in Pakistan these laws are formulated and approved only to improve the image of the country in front of the international community, ask for development funds, and freely trade Pakistani products on the European market."
Ms Yousaf has asked for a medical examination to confirm Younus' age but said she fears that the results will be falsified.
"But we keep hoping that the girl being underage will be proven so that she could be placed in women's shelter, and removed from her rapist," she said.
The next hearing in the case will be held on March 4.