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10/30/2020 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – Protests have spread across Pakistan in response to the abduction, forced conversion, and forced marriage of a 13-year-old Christian girl to a 44-year-old Muslim man. Protestors have called for Pakistani authorities to enforce the law and return the Christian girl to her family.

On October 13, Arzoo Raja was abducted from her family home in Karachi by her Muslim neighbor, Ali Azhar. 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 have challenged the validity of the marriage to Azhar claiming that it violates the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act. However, on October 27, the High Court of Sindh ruled in favor of the marriage, applying an interpretation of Sharia law that allows for underage marriages.

Protests against Arzoo’s abduction started in Karachi, but have since spread across Pakistan to other cities including Quetta, Lahore, and Hyderabad.

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 also 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.

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected].