Kidnappings and forced conversions to Islam continues to be a major issue affecting Pakistan’s Christian community. As many as 700 Christian women and girls, some as young as 12-years-old, fall victim to this abuse each year according to the Movement for Solidarity and Peace Pakistan. Often, local authorities side with the Muslim abductors, especially when the Christian has been forcefully converted and married to one of her abductors. Even if the victim is returned to the family, the shame associated with the victim has a long-term effect on their future.
07/15/2017 Pakistan (National Catholic Reporter) – Pakistani Christian girls have been abducted, raped and forced to marry their rapists, according to human rights lawyers who try to rescue these women from their captors. The abducted girls are forced to convert to Islam, which makes their subsequent marriages legal under Pakistani law.
These are mostly girls from poor families who do not have the power or resources to fight back. Sadly, some families even abandon their child because she is thought to bring shame on the family.
I learned of the plight of these girls when visiting Lahore as a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The views expressed in this column are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the commission.
In one case, a married Christian in her 20s with children was abducted. When her husband went to the police, they would do nothing because his Christian marriage was not registered under Pakistani law. But after his wife escaped from her abductor, her new “husband” went to the police, who took his side because his Islamic marriage was registered.
Only recently have Hindu marriages been recognized under Pakistani law, and the National Assembly is working on a bill to legalize Christian marriage. Its passage is being delayed because the Christian churches have not agreed on how to deal with divorce.
The tragic situation of these women is accentuated by the reaction of many of their families. The young girl is now seen as disgraced and therefore not marriageable. Some families disown the child because she brings shame to the family.