Rescue, Rehabilitation Missions

13-year-old Christian girl’s conversion and forced marriage in Pakistan

Minorities in Pakistan are protesting for the conversion and marriage of underage girls. In that year alone, more than 20 young Christian girls converted to Islam and married an adult Muslim man.

A recent news on social media caused a stir in Pakistan when a 13-year-old girl Aarzoo Raja was converted to Islam and married off with a 44 years old male Syed Azhar Ali. According to the section 375 of the law of Pakistan, a 14-years girl is prohibited from sex acts even if consent was acquired.

Following the disappearance of the 13-year-old girl, her parents have filed a petition with the District South Judicial Magistrate, asking the court to direct the police to recover the girl and produce her in court. They also want her to be put into the custody of a child protection institute because they fear she is currently being subjected to sexual violence. The Judicial Magistrate rejected the petition.

Arezoo’s parents say that she is 13 years old and to prove it she has NADRA birth certificate, NADRA registration and baptism certificate.

According to NADRA, she was born on July 31, 2007. whereas her abductor claimed she was 18 years old and had converted to Islam to marry her. He is 44 years old.

An FIR was lodged by Arzoo’s father Raja Masih on October 13 after she was abducted from his house. Police later found out that she was married to Syed Ali Azhar, who had presented Nikkhanhama (marriage contract ), an independent affidavit and a certificate of Islam.

Her parents have also filed an application under Sindh Child Marriage Regulatory Rules, Rules 5, 8, 9 and 10 of 2016, Section 6 of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2013 and Code 100 of the Code of Conduct.

After the FIR Aarzoo Raja filed a protection petition in the High Court of Sindh , though her parents say she were forced to file a petition in the Sindh High Court on October 27.

The court restrained the police from making arrests in the case but did not stop the police from continuing the investigation.

Due to public pressure, the Sindh High Court sent the 13-year-old girl to a shelter home and ordered the police to arrest the kidnapper. In addition, the court had constituted a five-member board to determine the age of Arzoo Raja.

The court also found the birth certificate valid and said it appeared to be a case of child marriage.

Forced conversions of girls and women from minority backgrounds and forced marriages have caused serious concern in Pakistan. An estimated 1,000 – mostly Hindu and Christian girls are abducted, forcibly converted, and forcibly married each year.

By Farrukh Saif

Farrukh Saif is a Pakistani human rights activist based in Germany. He founded his own organization, the Farrukh Saif Foundation (FSF), in 2009 with the goal of supporting marginalized and oppressed minorities in Pakistan who are affected by religious discrimination, blasphemy laws, forced conversions, abductions, rape, and bonded slavery. The main focus of the FSF is on the liberation of bonded laborers, particularly those working in brick kilns in rural areas of Pakistan. In 2018, the FSF merged with the US-based Emergency Committee to Save the Persecuted and Enslaved. Throughout his career, Farrukh has been a leading voice for the rights of minorities in Pakistan and has gained international attention for his campaigns against the misuse of blasphemy laws and the belief that asylum is not a crime. In 2014, he played a key role in the release of hundreds of asylum seekers from Thai jails and has worked with his legal team to save numerous victims of strict blasphemy laws in Pakistan. Farrukh has also been invited by the Hungarian government to discuss his work and the issues he addresses. In addition to his work with the FSF, Farrukh has also been involved in various other humanitarian efforts, including providing health care services to internally displaced persons in Khayber Pakhtoon Khawa in 2009 and assisting flood victims in Sindh and Punjab in 2010. He has worked to aid victimized minorities in Pakistan and has a strong track record of successfully advocating for their rights. Farrukh joined forces with Keith Davies in 2018 to co-found the Emergency Committee to Save The Persecuted and Enslaved, and since 2009, they have collectively successfully rescued more than 36000 individuals from slavery and persecution.