11/25/2020 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – On Monday, November 23, the High Court in Sindh ordered that Arzoo Raja, a 13-year-old Christian girl allegedly abducted and illegally married to a 44-year-old Muslim man, remain in a government shelter home until she turns 18.
On October 13, Arzoo was allegedly abducted from her family home in Karachi by Ali Azhar, her Muslim neighbor. Arzoo’s parents reported the incident to local police and were informed two days later that their daughter had converted to Islam and married Azhar.
Arzoo’s parents challenged the validity of the marriage claiming it violated the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act. However, on October 27, the court ruled in favor of the marriage and order local police to protect Arzoo and Azhar.
On November 2, police were ordered by the High Court in Sindh to recover Arzoo and arrest Azhar. This came after Pakistan’s Minister for Human Rights became involved in the case as an intervener. Arzoo was taken to a women’s shelter and Azhar was arrested.
On November 9, the High Court in Sindh ruled that Arzoo was a minor and that her marriage to Azhar violated the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act. Arzoo returned to the women’s shelter after she refused to reunite with her family and insisted that she had freely chosen to marry Azhar.
On November 23, the High Court in Sindh declined to dismiss the criminal charges against Azhar in addition to ordering Arzoo remain in the government shelter home.
“I believe it is a good verdict, because the court has not quashed the FIR registered by Arzoo’s father and statutory rape of a minor has been added to it, a crime punishable with life imprisonment or death sentence,” Jibran Nasir, the Christian family’s attorney, told Morning Star News. “Arzoo will remain in the shelter home and reconsider her decision to not live with her parents.”
“Please understand that Arzoo is reluctant to live with her parents because of the consistent brainwashing done by the accused and certain community activists for ulterior motives,” Nasir added.
According to a study by the Movement for Solidarity and Peace Pakistan, an estimated 1,000 Christian and Hindu women are abducted, forcefully married, and forcefully converted to Islam every year. Many of the victims are minors. Sexual assaults and fraudulent marriages are used by perpetrators to entrap victims and authorities are often complicit.
The issue of religion is injected into cases of sexual assault to place victims from religious minority communities at a disadvantage. Playing upon religious biases, perpetrators know they can cover up and justify their crimes by introducing an element of religion.
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