PAKISTAN: Abduction, forced conversion and marriage of a Christian girl, 13

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Pakistani Minorities issued a statement condemning the abduction, forced conversion and forced marriage of a 13 years old Christian girl in Pakistan.

On 13 October 2020, Arzoo Raja, was abducted from a street near her home in Karachi, forced to convert to Islam and marry the abductor, a 43-year-old Muslim man.

The APPG indicate that a particularly worrying issue is that despite her family producing a National Database and Registration Authority birth certificate showing Arzoo to be 13-years-old, the authorities failed to stop the illegal marriage.

Abductions, forced conversions and forced marriages of girls and women from the minorities background has become a serious concern in Pakistan. It is estimated that approximately 1,000 mostly Hindu and Christian girls, are abducted, forcibly converted and forcibly married every year.

Lord Alton, the APPG Co-Chair said, “This is a horrific crime which no culture or religion can justify. It is incomprehensible how a 13 year old can make life changing decision like converting to a different religion and want to marry a 43 years old man. We remind the Pakistani Government about its obligations under its constitution and human rights laws to protect its minorities. Our sympathies lie with Arzoo Raja and her parents. We will raise this issue with the UK Government, with the UN and other international human rights organisations.”

Lord Alton asked “How can a 13 years old child who does not understand her own religion, decide in a couple of days to comprehensively understand Islam and convert overnight?

“How was the marriage allowed between a 43-year-old man and a 13 years old girl, while Pakistan’s ‘Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929’ states that the minimum marriageable age in Pakistan is 16 and the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013 stipulates that any party to marriage must be at least 18 years of age in Sindh?

“Why did the Sindh High Court judge not look at the irrefutable evidence of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) birth record confirming her age to be 13 years old?”

Campaigners are asking whether the High Court decision has opened the way for child abusers to abduct, forcibly convert, and forcibly marry the minority’s girls.

They also argue that the messages sent to the religious minorities in Pakistan through such cases, and the connivance of the police and the judicial system, about their helplessness and unworthiness is very well understood both by the culprits and victims of such heinous crimes.

This week a Webinar was held on Freedom of Religion or Belief Day focusing on the appalling suffering of girls and women from religious minorities.

Those taking part included Baroness Cox and the FCDO Minister Lord Ahmad, Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, and Mervyn Thomas of CSW. The session was moderated by Ewelina Ochab, cofounder of the Coalition for Genocide Response.

Watch the webinar in full