A Pakistani court has sentenced a man to 14 years in jail for the rape of a seven-year-old Christian girl. Activists have celebrated the ruling as a rare justice for Christians in majority-Muslim Pakistan.
Judge Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali ruled on May 2 that Fakhr-e-Alam, who uses the alias 'Phool', would face 14 years in prison and a fine of 200,000 Pakistani rupees (£1298). Alam, who went straight to Sialkot District Jail after the sentencing, was seventeen years old when he raped then seven-year-old Saira Bibi on Easter Day in 2014, according to World Watch Monitor.
Police investigation and medical examination corroborated evidence given by the prosecution against Alam. The defendant was spared the maximum punishment for rape – of 25 years imprisonment – due to being a juvenile at the time of his crime.
Saira recounted the incident at trial, describing how on April 20, 2014, she had been on her way to the shops when she was taken by Alam to a nearby compound and raped. Alam fled the scene when Saira's brothers Shahbaz and Emmanuel Masih came to her rescue.
After the incident Saira's family had been pressured by local landlords not to go to the police. After extensive local news coverage of the attack, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered the provincial head of the police to submit the relevant investigation report.
But despite having seen the case through to victory, Saira's family still face adversity, including violent threats, social stigma and the loss of their home and jobs. The family fled their village after her case attracted local antagonism and now reportedly live on the roadside in the city of Sialkot.
Saira's mother Shaguftah Bibi told World Watch Monitor: 'Only days before the court decision came, my husband was working with a landlord nearby who removed him from service because we had refused to withdraw our case.
'Few days ago, two men stopped my son Shahbaz, who brought the case, to tell him that all four sons would now suffer consequences. I told him if anyone says this to him next time, he must tell them to do whatever they want, but only dare to come in the daylight, so others can see what is being done to us.
'Our heavenly father is with us and we are not afraid of anything', she said.