A court in Pakistan has given custody of a 12-year-old Christian girl, who was abducted by a Muslim and forced into an Islamic marriage, back to her parents.
The order was handed down by the Islamabad High Court last Thursday, according to the Pakistani English newspaper Dawn.
The outlet reports that the ruling came after the unnamed girl, who was born in May 2005, was unable to convince the court that she had willingly converted to Islam.
According to court documents, the girl gave a Muslim name when she was first asked to state her name in the courtroom. Additionally, the girl explained that she had only embraced Islam "for the purpose of marriage only."
The girl reportedly declared that Jesus was her prophet. She was not able to name any other prophet — including the Muslim Prophet, Muhammad — when asked to do so.
Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui wrote in the court order that he wasn't sold on the claim that the girl had embraced Islam and married on her own free will. The justice argued that it is more likely that the girl's conversion and marriage to the man was a "result of inducement and compulsion."
"How the girl has become Muslim when she does not know even about Prophet Muhammad?" the court ruling asks, according to PakistanToday.
According to Dawn, the judge explained that it appears that the Muslim man and his father plotted to abduct the girl.
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Siddiqui directed police investigators to review the matter. The judge also ruled that the validity of the girl's marriage to the man was questionable and needed to be resolved in family court. Upon conclusion of the hearing, the girl agreed to return home to her parents.
"I am constrained to observe that this sort of act of abduction and taking [the] shelter of Islam is totally uncalled for and unacceptable," Siddiqui wrote, according to Dawn.
The judge also declared that everyone in Pakistan — Muslims and Christians alike — have equal protections under the nation's constitution.
However, that principle is not applied consistently across the nation.
Pakistan ranks as the fifth worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA's 2018 World Watch List.
A 2014 report by the NGO Movement of Solidarity and Peace estimates that between 100 to 700 Christian girls in Pakistan are abducted, assaulted and forced into marriage every year.
Additionally, Muslims who have abducted Christian girls and women and forced them into marriages have, in many cases in the past, been treated a level of impunity by local authorities.
However, Pakistan passed a law last year that increases punishments for those who force minor children and religious minority women into marriages.
Last April, Fouzia Bibi, a Christian mother of three who was abducted and forced into an Islamic marriage with her boss, was granted freedom and a divorce by a family court in Lahore.
The ruling came nearly two years after Bibi was first abducted. It also came after her family was previously pressured by local authorities to return Bibi to the Muslim boss' home after she had escaped.
If Bibi's family didn't return her to the Muslim man, members of her family could have been arrested, the London-based British Pakistani Christian Association reported at the time.