By Matias Perttula
11/02/2020 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – While cases of abduction, forced conversion and forced marriage continue to pile up in Pakistan, a glimmer of hope has surfaced for Arzoo, a recent victim of this pattern.
The full details of Arzoo’s case so far can be read here.
The pressure has been building on officials to act in Pakistan’s Sindh province since the Arzoo’s abduction occurred only some days ago. Dawn, a popular Pakistani newspaper, reported on November 2, 2020 that the Sindh High Court issued an order for the Arzoo to be recovered and produced for a court hearing scheduled for November 5, 2020. The court also ordered medical tests to determine Arzoo’s age in an effort to prove her age as a 13-year-old girl.
The parents and legal team fighting for Arzoo have already produced documentation proving her age, but at the time of the original hearing, the judge refused to review the evidence. The situation has since gained international attention that sparked outrage as well as domestic protestation in Pakistan on behalf of the victim.
The court order to produce Arzoo is a point of hope for not only Arzoo, but for other girls that have fallen victim to similar crimes by members of the Muslim-majority community of Pakistan. The case of Huma Younus – who was abducted, forcefully converted and forcefully married to her abductor – continues unresolved.
Huma was 14 years of age at the time of her abduction and is now 15 and reported pregnant by her abductor and rapist. The situation has not progressed, but the court order from the Sindh High Court to produce Arzoo can set a precedent for future cases of forced conversion and forced marriages.
The facts surrounding Arzoo’s and Huma’s cases are strikingly similar. Both were abducted by older Muslim men who were familiar with the family and have family members in the police force who have likely aided the kidnappers. In both cases, the abductees age was proven to be under the age of consent (in Sindh the age is 18) and the courts had originally sided with the kidnappers.
It is likely that the cases and the situation will only escalate further. But for now, it is encouraging to see the courts pursuing justice. In fact, just moments ago, it was reported that Arzoo was recovered by the police.
Matias Perttula serves as the Advocacy Director for International Christian Concern where he leads the government relations efforts to mobilize the US government to address issues of persecution in countries where religious minorities are oppressed and the freedom of religion is in decline.